Otautahi/Christchurch teach in on Israel/Palestine

September 22, 2006

If you’re in Otautahi/Christchurch, you should come along and listen to me (and other people) speak on Saturday at the TUC. If not, I’ll put my speech and powerpoint presentation online sometime next week.

How To Foster Peace & Justice in the Middle East

Saturday, 23 September 2006
12:00 PM – 5:00 PM

What the news media don’t tell you.

Teach-in to learn and discuss ways we can contribute to peace in the Middle East

12pm – Dr Ron Macintyre
The Situation Today

1pm – Dr Bill Shepard
Religion: Part of the problem or part of the solution?

2:10pm – Asher Goldman
Peace initiatives on the ground in Israel and Palestine

2:40pm – Dr Philip Ferguson
Repression and resistance

3:20pm – What to do next? Time for a Middle East solidarity group?

Saturday 23rd September

Please bring koha for afternoon tea

Location:
TUC Building, 199 Armagh St, corner Armagh & Madras


My enemy’s enemy sure as hell isn’t my comrade

August 29, 2006

The following article was written for a zine called Intifada, which should be out in a week or so :)
Since Israel’s latest brutal invasion of Lebanon, some leftist groups and individuals have seen fit to declare their support for Hezbollah. This support has manifested itself predominantly in writing on the Internet and on solidarity marches, protests and demonstrations. In this article, I hope to show that no leftist should support Hezbollah – a sexist, homophobic and anti-working class organisation.

The socialist left (and sadly, some anarchists), both in Aotearoa and globally, seem to formulate their support along one of two lines, described here by the UK Class War Federation in their statement delightfully titled “HezBollocks and IsRabies”:

Firstly, wholesale adoption of the Islamist agenda, cheerleading Hamas or Hezbollah without qualification or criticism. This ‘Idiot anti-imperialism’, the trademark of today’s SWP [The UK equivalent of Aotearoa's Socialist Worker], says my enemy’s enemy is my friend and any criticism of them, no matter how mild, is ‘racism, islamophobia, and Zionist pro American warmongering.’

The second approach is slightly more subtle – Hezbollah is fighting back, therefore we must support Hezbollah and the slogan ‘we are all Hezbollah’ is an act of basic solidarity with those who are fighting back against imperialism – the slogan is compared with the Parisian students who, when Danny Cohn-Bendit was attacked in the bourgeois press as a German Jew, marched through Paris chanting ‘nous sommes tout les jiufs allemands!’ (we are all German Jews).

This argument is crap – Hezbollah isn’t a nationality or a racial epithet, it is a political party/militia

My enemy’s enemy is my friend. Surely there are few justification for political support that are stupider! Zionists fight antisemitism, should we support them? Neo-Nazis oppose Israel, should we support them? The support for Hezbollah can only be explained on one of two grounds – complete ignorance of their beliefs, or the limiting of ones politics to hatred of Israel (and perhaps the USA) to the exclusion of the global working class, women, queers and revolution.

The majority of the civilians killed by Hezbollah were not the Israeli bourgeois, but rather the poorest sectors in society. The rich of the North moved South to stay with friends or family during the rocket attacks, or hired houses for a few weeks. The middle class had bomb shelters in their houses or apartment blocks. Meanwhile, the poorest sectors of Israeli society (predominantly Israeli Palestinians and Israeli Jews from Arab countries), not able to afford bomb shelters, were left to fend for themselves. Meanwhile, in Lebanon, Hezbollah push a sexist and homophobic agenda, especially in the South where their power base lies.

Surely, as revolutionaries, we should be expressing our solidarity with the working class of Lebanon, Palestine and Israel, not with their reactionary oppressors. We should be supporting the work of Lebanese, Palestinian and Israeli leftists, anarchists and all those working for that old cliche, peace with justice and self-determination. For, to quote again from the Class War Federation:

Re-jigging the lines on a map will create new oppressions, new grievances and new horrors, and we as revolutionaries should have no part in assisting that.

How would this be manifested? To quote one example of a positive, liberatory force in Lebanon that wholeheartedly deserves our solidarity and support:

7 Lebanese youth working with the R.A.S.H., the antifascist Red Anarchist Skinhead collective in Europe decided to return to Lebanon to help with relief work as the death toll in their country mounted. Within a few days they were risking their lives walking through southern Lebanon with 80lbs of food and water on their backs to arrive at villages near the Israeli border that humanitarian organizations had deemed unreachable. With Israeli missiles falling all around them, they supplied food to starving people unable to evacuate their villages.

The left is often criticised by Zionists for being antisemitic. From what I have seen, read and experienced, this is not the case. There are few antisemitic incidents on the left, and I think most of them are probably unconscious. However, a community can be unwelcoming to Jews without being antisemitic. It seems to me that support for Hezbollah, while not antisemitic in or of itself, does tend to make a community extremely unwelcoming for Jewish leftists.

I can think of a number of Jews who waver from leftist Zionism to cultural Zionism to non-Zionism to anti-Zionism, and I know that for many, comments such as “we are all Hezbollah!” are likely to push them far away from both Jewish anti-Zionist voices and from the radical left in general and back into the mainstream Zionist fold. Is this what we want?

We need to be fostering and encouraging revolutionary currents, and not supporting reactionary religious fundamentalist organisations simply because they happen to be physically confronting imperialist forces at a given moment.

And if Hezbollah is victorious in their goals, then what? Does blind support for them swap into opposition? Good luck finding Lebanese leftists struggles to support then, because Hezbollah’s success will naturally mean the end of the secular left in Lebanon.

Seeing the world in only black and white is perhaps the most destructive force in existence for much of the left. Rather, we should recognise that the struggle against capitalism and imperialism does not simply come from one angle. Fascists struggle against modern capitalism (although they are also often used by modern capitalism against leftist anti-capitalists), and likewise, Islamists struggle against imperialism. The Three Way Fight weblog phrased it thus:

The idea that there are significant right-wing forces radically opposed to both the left and global capitalist elites doesn’t just come from encounters with neonazis. If the concept of right-wing anti-imperialism has relevance anywhere, it’s in the Middle East. The Iranian Revolution was a wake-up call for me because it showed how militant, mass-based hostility to U.S. hegemony could take a right-wing form — and because so much of the U.S. left failed to understand this. Three-way fight politics is an attempt to go beyond old leftist categories because the old categories don’t adequately describe political reality today — including political Islam.

A commenter on Three Way Fight proposes a way forward from here:

Rather than trying to figure out the right “anarchist” line on conflicts like in Lebanon, wouldn’t it be better to simply understand the underlying forces of the conflict, using the best tools of materialist analysis, as well as the connections to U.S. domestic politics (not just foreign policy)? This would enable us to concentrate on our real task: building a radical working class in this country. In other words, the problem for revolutionaries is not to lend abstract “critical support” to this or that struggle overseas but to build a movement here, one that renders the U.S. incapable of propping up apartheid states like Israel or right-wing fundies like the Mujahadeen.

I think this theory is perhaps the most practical solution I’ve heard yet. Creativity is needed if we’re ever going to create a better society, and this is as good a place as any to start. For, to quote one last time from Three Way Fight:

George Bush declared after September 11th: Either you are with us or against us. Surely we can do better than that.


Aotearoa Jews For Justice launches

August 15, 2006

Recently, a group of Aotearoa (New Zealand) Jews joined together to form a group called Aotearoa Jews For Justice, in order to show quite clearly that not all Jews are Zionists, and that there are an ever increasing number of Jews all over the world standing in solidarity with the Palestinian and Lebanese people. The group currently has members in Wellington and Christchurch and already we have had expressions of interest from elsewhere in the country. To contact AJFJ, email jewsforjustice[at]gmail[dot]com (don’t forget to fix the address before hitting send!).

We are still working on getting our kaupapa sorted, but hopefully soon we should actually have the core beliefs of the group down on paper. When we do, I’ll be sure to post them here. We will also have a website up and running within the next few days.

Meanwhile, here is the flyer some of our Wellington members handed out on a recent Lebanon/Palestine solidarity march in Wellington, and a letter to the editor from AJFJ that was published in the Dominion Post.

Aotearoa Jews For Justice Speaks Out Against Israel

Aotearoa Jews For Justice stands in solidarity with the Lebanese and Palestinian people suffering at the hands of the Israeli army. We also stand with those Israelis who are challenging the illegal and war-mongering actions of the Israeli state in Palestine and now in Lebanon.

We are part of a growing global movement of Jews who feel that it is our duty to oppose the atrocities being committed by the Israeli government in our name. Israel has never and will never represent us.

We draw from a long tradition of Jews who have campaigned for social justice and against racism and colonialism regardless of where it has occurred. To find out more or to join us, contact jewsforjustice[at]gmail[dot]com

For more information:

Israel Indymedia

International Middle East Media Centre

Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions

Gush Shalom

Refuser Solidarity Network

B’Tselem

Ibdaa

To the editor,

As Israel continues brutalising Lebanon and the Gaza Strip, and continues its expansion in the West Bank, we feel it is important that, as Jews, we stand up and make clear that Israel, despite its claims to the contrary, is not acting in our name.

Aotearoa Jews For Justice stands in solidarity with the Lebanese and Palestinian people suffering at the hands of the Israeli army. We also stand with those Israelis who are challenging the illegal and war-mongering actions of the Israeli state in Palestine and now in Lebanon.

In drawing from a long history of Jews who have worked for social justice all over the globe, we aim to continue the mission of those who have come before us for a just and peaceful world.

Israel has never and will never represent all Jews.

Yours,

Aotearoa Jews For Justice


Anarchist Resistance In Israel

July 27, 2006

The following is a brief article I just wrote for the upcoming edition of the monthly Magnetic Fridge Diary, an activist and community events diary in Wellington. The MFD is expanding a bit from this coming issue, and will now also contain more writing on a specific theme each month. Wicked! If you’re in Wellington, you can pick one up from Oblong/The Freedom Shop in Left Bank, or the Central Library or a number of cafes and other spots around the city.

Anarchist Resistance In Israel

The small anarchist movement in Israel is very active in the wider movement of radical anti-occupation activists. There are a number of collectives that organise in many forms, including protests and street theatre, education and direct action. Many have served jail time for refusing their compulsory service in the Israeli army. Additionally, many Israeli anarchists are also involved in the small Israeli animal rights and environmental movements.

The largest group is Anarchists Against The Wall. AATW works with Palestinian communities and organisations to oppose the barrier Israel is building around (and within) the West Bank. It has been involved in a peace camp in the village of Mas’ha in 2003, direct actions tearing down sections of the barrier and more recently weekly demonstrations in the town of Bil’in. It has faced repression from the Israeli army, including one of it’s members being shot in the leg with live ammunition during a demonstration.

Many members of AATW are also involved in a group called Black Laundry, a radical queer anti-occupation group that has been involved in both direct actions in the occupied territories and street theatre within Israel. Black Laundry is currently organising the global Queeruption festival from August 3rd – 13th in Tel Aviv.

Another group with anarchist involvement is the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions. ICAHD focuses on preventing the demolition of Palestinian houses by the Israeli army both via legal methods and direct action, and members also help Palestinian communities to rebuild houses that have been destroyed. The group also maintains an infocentre in Jerusalem.

Lastly, Salon Mazal is an anarchist infoshop in Tel Aviv, with a bookshop, library, vegetarian cafe and space for meetings, lectures and film screenings. It is currently in desperate need of funds in order to be able to stay open!


Flyer calls for the murder of queers in Israel

July 13, 2006

With all the insanity currently going on in Gaza (and now Lebanon), it’s easy to ignore domestic insanity in Israel. Haaretz reports today of a flyer circulating in an ultra-Orthodox neighbourhood of Jerusalem offering a 20,000 shekel (approx NZ$7200) reward for the murder of any queer person.

The flyer, with the heading “Death to the Sodomites”, also included instructions on making firebombs. It comes one month before an international World Pride festival is scheduled to take place in the city. The radical queer DIY Queeruption festival is scheduled for the same time period in Tel Aviv.

“This flyer is part of an incitement and de-legitimization campaign on the part of Mayor [Uri] Lupolianski and the ultra-Orthodox public against the gay and lesbian population in Jerusalem,” said Sa’ar Netanel (Meretz), a member of the Jerusalem city council and a leader of the gay community in Jerusalem.

The situation for queers in Jerusalem is already difficult. The 2006 Queeruption site states

In June 2005, during the last parade that took place in Jerusalem, the homophobic incitement by the Jerusalem municipality soared. With the support of the mayor, more than a thousand people demonstrated against the parade, cursing and throwing objects at the marchers. The day ended with a stabbing and injuring of 3 marchers by an ultra orthodox Jew (he was arrested by the police and is now facing a court case for 3 attempted murders).

The numbers who will attend World Pride and Queeruption are not known. There is a website set up encouraging queers to boycott both events in protest against Israel’s occupation of and cruel practices towards Palestinians.


Israel steps up attacks on Gaza

July 6, 2006

Edit: This is now also a feature on Global Indymedia. Sweet.

The following is a feature I wrote for Aotearoa Indymedia yesterday.

The already dire situation in the Gaza Strip became even worse over the course of June as Israel stepped up it’s attacks on the poverty stricken territory. Israel has been pounding Gaza with air and artillery strikes, and ground troops have also crossed the border.

According to the independant Palestinian Maan News Agency, 55 Palestinians were killed by the Israel army in June, with 304 injuries. On June 29, Israel also abducted 64 members of the Palestinian parliament. On the night of July 1, Israel also launched an air strike on the headquarters of the Palestinian Prime Minister, Ismail Haniyeh.

Links: Global Indymedia Feature | Indymedia Israel | Maan News | Haaretz | Commentary on Anarchia blog | Electronic Intifada | Palestine News Network

The situation was escalated by Israel after Palestinian militants kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Sharit on June 25 following a fire fight on the Israeli side of the border near Kibbutz Kerem Shalom. Israel’s response was swift and brutal, with air strikes on Palestinian infrastructure and the invasion of ground forces to the east of Rafah in south Gaza.

Water shortage is also a huge issue in the Gaza Strip. With Gaza’s only power station mostly destroyed by an Israeli air strike on June 28, the pumps which spread water throughout Gaza ceased to function. Dr Majid Abu Ramadan, the Mayor of Gaza, said that because of the cut in electricity, sanitation pumps and garbage collection have stopped functioning leading to mountains of garbage bieng piled high in the streets. He said that this situation will bring yet another machine with which to kill Palestinians, namely diseases.

June 28 also saw attacks on many of the bridges in Gaza, virtually splitting the territory in two and making already difficult travel even harder. All border crossings into Gaza have been closed, meaning much needed food and medicine cannot reach those who need it. On June 2, Israel reopened the Karni crossing for 150 trucks per day for four days, a move which many see as woefully inadequate. Salim Abu Safiyeh, the Director-General of Palestinian Crossings, said on July 3 “that it was imperative that food and other essential items be allowed to enter the Gaza Strip if the world wants to avoid a humanitarian disaster.”

Another weapon Israel has used in it’s latest offensive is fear. Israeli jets are flying across Gaza at all hours, sometimes striking and sometimes not, forcing Gazans to live in a permanent state of anxiety. Additionally, Israeli jets are deliberately creating sonic booms over Gaza, following Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s order “to make sure no one sleeps at night in Gaza”. The Maan News Agency states “The continuous sounds of shelling, warplanes and sonic bombs [sic] disrupts normal life both during the day, when it causes shock and fear, but even more so at night, when it induces real terror in Gazan residents who are enduring the sudden, loud and menacing sounds in the darkness.”

Meanwhile in Israel, many anti-occupation activists and groups have voiced their concern and demanded an end to Israeli state terrorism. Renowned journalist Gideon Levy stated in the Haaretz daily newspaper that “A state that takes such steps is no longer distinguishable from a terror organization.” He went on to state that “What we are doing now in Gaza has nothing to do with freeing him [kidnapped soldier Gilad Sharit]. It is a widescale act of vengeance, the kind that the IDF and Shin Bet [Israeli internal intelligence] have wanted to conduct for some time.” Anti-occupation group Gush Shalom has continued it’s call for the removal of Dan Halutz, commander-in-chief of the Israeli army, after having participated with local anarchists in a demonstration outside Halutz’s home earlier in June. The group also held a demonstration of over 100 peace activists outside the Ministry Of Defense within 24 hours of the Israeli incursion beginning.


The Landlord Has Gone Crazy

July 4, 2006

Unless you’ve been living in a hole lately, you’ve probably heard at least a little about all the shit that’s going on in the Gaza Strip at the moment. In an area already in a dire situation, things have got worse. After the kidnapping of an Israeli soldier, Israel’s response has been swift, brutal and indiscriminate.

What does Israel want? According to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, he “wants the Palestinians to understand that the landlord has gone crazy.” And crazy is certainly an apt description of recent events. Another would be collective punishment.

Israel has conducted a sustained campaign of aerial and artillery bombardment on the heavily populated Gaza Strip. Unsurprisingly, there have been plenty of civilian casualties. The Israeli army can claim all it likes that it only targets “terrorists”, but when you have over one million people crammed into such a tiny area, it simply isn’t realistic to pretend you’re only effecting the “baddies”. Oh, and firing at least nine missiles into Gaza’s only power station and blowing up bridges (having the effect of splitting Gaza in two) probably doesn’t help your claims much either.

Ahmed Tibi, a Palestinian member of the Israeli Knesset (Parliament) says “it is not possible for tanks and mortars to bombard refugee camps and to say: ‘We hurt children and civilians by accident.’” The cartoon I posted yesterday offers a similar thought. It is this naivety that the Israeli army tries it’s best, but accidents happen, that I believe is embraced wholeheartedly by much of what passes for the Israeli left, and I hope to post more on this in the near future, but for now, back to Gaza.

Gazans are in a no win situation. If the groups that kidnapped Gilad Shalit, a young conscript, released him immediately, does anyone actually expect Israel’s offensive would stop? Of course not, it would continue, under the pretence that Israel “has to make sure it doesn’t happen again”. If Shalit is kept hostage, or if he is killed, the offensive will continue again, in some vain hope for retribution. So where do they go?

Olmert’s quote that he wants Palestinians to understand Israel has gone crazy is only one of a number of similar comments from Israeli politicians of late, both in government and opposition. Moshe Sharoni of Gil (the Pensioners Party) stated “We need to obliterate Gaza and call it the City of Murderers, the City of Terrorists.”

Israel has systematically destroyed Gaza over a long period of time. Poverty and disease are rife, unemployment is high and still, Palestinians yearn for self-determination. While I would argue that kidnapping is not the way to go about achieving it, and in fact will likely result in an even worse situation for Gazans, when you are backed into a corner with seemingly no hope, it doesn’t surprise me. Desperate times call for desperate measures, and times are definately desperate in Gaza.


Intentions are everything…

July 3, 2006

norman_finkelstein_says_by_latuff2.jpg


Salon Mazal threatened with closure

June 23, 2006

Via Orthodox Anarchist:

Founded in 2001, Salon Mazal is a social and political centre in the heart of Tel Aviv. The Salon is a library, infoshop, bookstore, fair trade grocer, and vegan cafe that supports activists working for political and social change, as well as being open and welcoming to the public.

The Salon is a unique and well-used venue for promoting alternative views and opinions, both through public meetings, study groups, film nights and the biggest collection of anti-occupation, anarchist, vegan and queer literature in the Middle East, most of which is unavailable elsewhere. The centre is also crucial as a safe space for political organising and an accessible way for Israelis to become more involved in these activities. We also have hundreds of international visitors each year who come to understand more and connect with alternative 'counter' culture in Israel.

The centre is the only autonomously-run social centre in Israel. It is entirely run by volunteers and by donation. It is well used and well-supported, with an active database with over 500 subscribers. Over the last five years, it has become a cultural institution – a vital resource for Israeli political culture. For more info see our English language website.

Salon Mazal is threatened with imminent closure unless we can raise 70,000 NIS (around $15,000) by the beginning of July. Until recently, the Salon was supported by a foundation, that has now shut down. Although we make some money through sales this is not enough to support us to pay central Tel Aviv rents.

Please consider donating whatever you can towards this vital resource.

For more information please email mazalsalon at yahoo dotcom. We would be really happy to hear from you.

Salon Mazal kicks arse. A true place of hope in such a fucked up area. Here's hoping it's still around next time I go back…and if anyone is feeling generous, there's donation details on their website (link above).


Anarchia Issue 1 – May 2006

June 8, 2006

Today I finally printed the first issue of my zine, also titled Anarchia. You can download it below.

Download Anarchia Issue 1 – May 2006 (1.4MB .pdf file)

If you want a hard copy, it will be available either now or very soon from the following locations:

Te Whanganui-a-Tara / Wellington – The Freedom Shop, shop 204b in Left Bank (off Cuba Mall).

Otautahi / Christchurch – Food Not Bombs stalls most Fridays 11-2 cnr Cashel and Colombo, and other random stalls and events.

Otepoti / Dunedin – Black Star Books, 2nd Floor, Regent Chambers, 18 The Octagon.

Melbourne – Barricade Books, inside Irene Community Arts Warehouse, 5 Pitt Street, Brunswick

More locations to come :)

If you know of anywhere else that might be interested in it, then feel free to print the .pdf above, or email anarchiazine@gmail.com for hard copies or more details.


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