By Dina Jadallah-Taschler
‘Force overcome by force’ (Vi Victa Vis) Cicero, Roman Orator, politician, and philosopher (106 BC-43 BC)
The first part of this essay has covered some of the diplomatic and economic controls that the international “consensus” has recently used to contain and subvert the Palestinian struggle. Israel’s wantonly destructive behavior in Gaza did succeed, but only in accomplishing the dialectically opposite political objectives. Namely, it dealt a potentially irreversible blow to the international image of Zionism and to Israel’s portrayal (of itself) as a “light unto the nations” who has “the most moral army in the world.” Not only did images from the massacre escape their tight censorship and contradict their extensive PR / propaganda campaign. But the post-massacre inquiries by international and local human rights organizations as well as the disgusting and very revealing testimony by members of the occupation army (disclosed in several Haaretz reports) confirm the truth to all those who may have harbored suspicions.
The financial and economic turmoil that has swept around the globe may be potential opportunities for resistance. And here, I mean resistance in its most comprehensive sense: in all its facets and manifestations, both locally in Palestine, and regionally and internationally. Belief in resistance is fed also by the increasingly widespread public realization of the grand failure of the “process” of “peace,” despite its modest goal of a state on only 22% of historic Palestine. That was and is unachievable, even after all the concessions that had been both extracted from the eviscerated PLO (that somehow still retains its now oxymoronic titular claim to “liberation”) as well as, generously and obsequiously given by the Fatah-led PA post Oslo.
So inquiring minds (and there are so many of those among the people who are consistently kept on the receiving end of the international relations and neo-liberal economics stick) want to know of what use is this farce? Looking back at the history of various Palestinian groups, it quickly becomes apparent that the right to “lead” is ultimately a function of faithful representation of the will of the majority of Palestinians regarding their rights to resist, whether actively or by simply persisting (sumoud) until their rights are restored and they are liberated. So long as Fatah proclaimed to stand for resistance on behalf of the Palestinian cause, it was allowed to lead. Once it joined the “consensus” and gave up that right, other groups inevitably emerged to take its place. Thus, those who voted for Hamas, may not have done so because of any love for that (regressive and misogynistic) party, but because they were for resistance (and were not corrupt like the PA).
Unfortunately, Hamas is in the same rightist political camp as the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority. Even though it speaks of Resistance, it is not revolutionary. Hamas is the flip side of Fatah’s secular face; but socially and politically it is just as reactionary and regressive. While one is concerned with the Unknowns of the Afterlife and prescriptions from God, the other is concerned with the Here and Now, but only insofar as they are compliant with all the “agreements” that were signed with Israel and the “consensus.” In other words, so long as hegemony and the current lopsided distribution of power are served.
And now that Hamas has called for the halting of rockets against Israel, it may well be that new groups emerge to carry the popular will to fruition.
Economic Cracks in Consensus Wonderland?
In part I, I discussed how economic and financial aid levers were deployed to undermine the Palestinians. But, the “aid” sword of Damocles held over them to ensure submission is problematical. Just as in that Greek legend, the sense of constant fear in which the Palestinians live will inevitably induce a reaction where in the end it could be the mighty Israel that will have the most to fear. After all, the latter may now have might, but the former has right. Israel’s own behavior is its own worst enemy – ironically, just as Zionists have always (falsely) accused the Palestinians of in the past.
Although the forces arrayed against Palestinians might seem formidable, there are nevertheless, rays of hope. As discussed above there is the military impasse. This is not confined only to Israel against non-state actors, grass-roots resistance movements and even ordinary people who refuse to give up. It also includes to some extent the American imbroglio in Iraq, Afghanistan, and now also an undeclared “war on terror” in Pakistan. In all these places, the military hegemon is demonstrably not omnipotent, and needs the active assistance of local puppets, and even of supposed “enemies,” like Iran on occasion. Recognizing the limits of military might to achieve political goals, the US is now supposedly “open” to talks with Iran, Syria, and even the Taliban, via the usual suspect, Saudi Arabia. The same logic is reflected in the EU’s decision to “talk” with Hamas. Granted, it is as yet unknown if these talks will amount to anything. Given that the ultimate aim is always to force the cessation of resistance to hegemonic designs, “success” is dependent on the degree of cooperation by the weaker party.
Another new factor that will affect the regional picture is the financial crisis that has swept around the world. It originated in the lair of the supreme hegemon and has destroyed a big portion of “wealth” (at least the mountains of paper and electronic wealth) that had been created in the mania days of neo-liberal globalization. For the Middle East, this has several implications.
First, is the declining level of “financial aid” given by the Americans to a few local regimes. The Middle East Times (3/25/09) reported decreases in aid of 12% and 27% to Egypt and Jordan, respectively. Israel’s aid is untouchable, naturally. But perhaps reflecting displeasure with the quality of thug performance against Hamas, aid to Jordan earmarked for “defense” will be cut by almost one third. Potentially, these reductions may affect some of the nefarious uses to which this “aid” is put – for instance, future training “security” forces or diplomatic bullying. Each “moderate” “peace-loving” ruler/puppet has his own specialty.
Second, the financial crisis has destroyed a significant portion of the assets of Sovereign Wealth Funds (SFW). The actual figures of the losses are unknown due to the secretive structures of funds for reasons “sovereignty and national security.” (1) Of course, the “sovereignty” of said funds is a question of how much one believes in the “sovereignty” of the puppet. In addition, the price of oil has plummeted (at least for now) since a year ago and oil revenues to many of the oil producers in the region have been significantly reduced. Also, al-Jazeera (3/16/09) reported stock market losses in the region have reached $1.8 trillion, not counting what the SWF’s lost on their investments in the West. And finally, these states are under internal pressure to stimulate their own economies out of the financially devastating mess by using some of that wealth internally. It is estimated that only 5% of the SFW money is invested in local markets. (See Zawiya.com 2/25/09)
These combined financial pressures may affect at least the size of Gulf states’ normally sizeable contributions to regressive plans and forces in the region that fight grass-roots and secular resistance groups.
Moreover, while it may be too much to hope for at this stage, there is increasing worldwide apprehension about the viability of continuing to “invest” in US financial instruments. The race to debase (currencies) is on as the capitalist system stumbles and as each country tries to gain a “trade” advantage over its rivals. First England, and then several other countries, announced that they will start quantitative easing, i.e. monetizing their debt. This means that, for lack of foreign buyers, their central bank will start buying their own bonds, effectively printing money to do so, and thus depreciating the currency against its rivals. (2)
In an interview with 60 Minutes, Ben Bernanke, the Fed chief, basically admitted that the US will also be printing money. This has important implications. It does not make for happy customers (buyers) of US debt, whose past purchases have been the financial underpinning of US wars on the rest of humanity, including Iraq and Afghanistan, and by extension, the US base in the Middle East, aka Israel. Not only do the buyers have to fear the rising US deficit as a proportion of its national output, GDP. They also must fear the declining purchasing power and relative price of the world’s reserve currency, the dollar, which they hold in prodigious amounts as “reserves.” Recently, China has voiced concerns about the stability of the dollar. And on March 15, 2009, Russian president Medvedev called for the creation of a “supra-national currency,” for forcing banks and countries to diversify their reserves, and for an updating of the role and mandate of the IMF so as to enable it to deal with financial crises. This is further evidence, admittedly limited, but a start, of cracks in the foundation of US empire, not only in terms of challenges by rivals, but also in terms of its ability to finance its expansion and military and economic hegemony.
As for the GCC states that hold the bulk of foreign currency reserves and wealth in the Arab world, it is yet to be determined if their governments will finally listen to repeated suggestions by their experts to diversify away from the dollar. (See business24-7.ae 3/18/09) If history is any guide, the puppets know who the puppet master is and the GCC rulers will stick with the dollar. But all the other economic disasters that are washing over them will inevitably have an impact on their “excess”/“recyclable”/overwhelmingly West-invested wealth.
Reconstructing a New Resistance
In light of the developments discussed above, one wonders if the combined results of the world financial crisis, the discrediting of neo-liberal economic policies, the wealth destruction and its concomitant creation of larger classes of poverty-stricken people (like the refugees in Gaza who are the electoral backbone of Hamas), the confidence-building realization for oppressed people that military might does not always translate into concrete political achievements (despite the violence and destruction), the growth in the world solidarity movement and in the power of communication beyond mainstream (controlled) channels would all result in a spreading of a new Intifada, this time beyond state borders in the Arab world? Will there be a convergence of economic and political grievances worldwide?
Affirmation of the right to resist until liberation is a necessary pre-condition in order to overcome unjust and deceptive hegemonic “consensus” demands. Their are four new encouraging developments for the Palestinians.
First, is the crucial and effective growth of non-state actor resistance in Lebanon, the Occupied Territories, and elsewhere. These serve as a check on the military might of empire as an instrument of exploitative and transformative political change. Moreover, it is a counterweight to the Arab colonial-relic rulers’ acquiescence and submission.
Second, as discussed above, is the opportunity provided by the cracks in the financial foundation of empire, which may create more political and economic space for resistance groups and ideas to flourish.
Third, is the worldwide growth of leftist activism. This includes the International Divestment and Solidarity Movement, as well as the work of many Palestinian and international groups with internationalist consciousness. Among them are traditional leftist/Marxist/anarchist groups such as student and solidarity groups in Greece, in Turkey, and others across Europe who are planning demonstrations this coming April 4th to protest the occupations of Iraq and Palestine. (3) The case of Turkey is especially interesting, because in the post-Gaza environment, the Turkish government (a member of NATO, no less) is now reportedly cooperating with Palestinians in their attempts to locate Ottoman era documents proving their ownership of property and land that Zionist groups in Israel are trying to confiscate and expropriate using forged documents. (See aljazeera.net 3/22/09) This is unprecedented, and follows the harsh words (only words, alas) that Turkish president Erdogan had for the Israeli President Peres at Davos following the massacre in Gaza.
Fourth, is the increasing number and quality of legal challenges to Israel’s (and other “consensus” members’) behavior. Most of these are based on human rights abuses or illegal uses of military purchases aid by Israel. But they also include suits brought to rectify illegal land expropriations, house demolitions, and so forth. Two factors impede the legal route to resisting Israel. First, are the grave and legitimate doubts among the Palestinians about the ability of international law to protect them and their (historically proven and repeated) recognition that enforcement and execution are impeded by power disparities and dominant interests. The second obstacle is the lack of desire and will among traditional Palestinian “leaders” to pursue these avenues. Since many are currently in the “consensus” camp, covertly or overtly, they prefer interminable “negotiations” under the rubric or the “peace process.”
Importantly, there is grassroots resistance to that state of “civilized” submission to dominant powers from below. Even within Fatah itself, there are now disgruntled voices from some rank and file that question its direction and question the legitimacy of its claim to speak for and negotiate (and concede) national rights on behalf of all Palestinians. There are grassroots human rights organizations like Al-Badil and al-Awda. (4) Other groups focus on bringing suits internationally against those who help Israel commit its crimes. For example, Al-Haq is bringing suit against UK arms trading with Israel in breach of international law. Finally, a novel, and long overdue, legal route is being pursued by youth-based Palestinian group, Watanuna, who are seeking redress from Great Britain for its crucial role in the creation of the state of Israel on Mandate-era Palestine, and consequently for British co-responsibility for the Nakba. (5)
Eventually, some legal challenges to Israel will break through ossified legal formulations left over from the imperialist and post-colonial past that favor (hegemonic formulae of) legalisms over Justice. And more importantly, the cumulative effects of various forms of resistance will change the international standards of what is Just and what is Unjust so that there will be implementation and execution of decisions against dominant powers. And, just like it is more common to hear of former slaves demanding compensation and of outright rejection of apartheid, it is a move in the right direction in terms of international consciousness about and questions of redress for the horrific history of colonialism and its repercussions on the world today.
In the case of Israel, its desperate and increasingly vicious behaviors are an indication of its growing alarm at both Palestinian and international events and developments over which it has little control. As Cicero said so long ago: “No power is strong enough to be lasting if it labors under the weight of fear.”
– Dina Jadallah-Taschler is an Arab-American of Palestinian and Egyptian descent, a political science graduate and also an artist. She contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. Contact her at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
(1) See Business 24.
(2) When a central bank buys bonds, or any other asset, it basically writes a check against itself to the firm or bank selling the asset. The bank or firm then turns around and deposits this check with the central bank. And viola! It is good money because it is drawn against the Federal Reserve or the Bank of England, etc… In short, it is monetary alchemy. Japan and Canada announced that they will do the same. And even Switzerland, that historic stalwart of currency stability, has decided to do the same because the Swiss Franc is now deemed too high. See Financial Times.
(3) See Aljazeera.net.
(4) See Badil and al-Awda: www.badil.org and www.al-awda.org.
(5) See Watanuna (Arabic). There might be precedent very recently set, but not yet (or currently likely to be enforced) for this approach. The island of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean was “detached” from the Seychelles/Mauritius, and then “given”/leased by the UK to the United States so that the latter would set up a military base there. The UK then forcibly depopulated the original Chagossian population. It was a British colony that then became colonized by the American military. This is very similar to the situation in Palestine, which also was a British Mandate territory (a form of colony) that later became colonized by Zionist Jews who also had entered into an agreement with the colonizer. Consider that Diego Garcia functions as an important base for projecting American (and NATO) hegemony over Western Asia and the Middle East. Israel performs a similar “service” in the Middle East. When one considers the enormous financial and military “aid” and cooperative coordination between Israel and the US, it can be argued that Israel is itself a glorified American base/extension of (US) empire. Recently, the Chagossians won the right to be allowed to return (Right of Return) to their islands. They were also granted the right of British citizenship and compensation. However, when international decolonization laws, despite their imperialist and colonialist origins, don’t work, hegemons resort to power as the arbiter of how things will be. And that is what the British government did. In 2004, it basically overruled/ignored the court, and enacted two Orders in council restricting immigration, which basically banned the Chagossians from returning. Following appeals, two court decisions upheld their right of return. But then again, the House of Lords in October of 2008 ruled that they cannot return. The wording of the Lords’ ruling is indicative: in ruling against the islanders, the government’s (Foreign Office’s) position was favored because they said the government acted "in the interests of the defense of the realm, diplomatic relations with the US and the use of public funds in supporting any settlement on the islands." See The Guardian 10/23/08 The Chagossians plan to take their case to the European Court of Human Rights. Although so far unsuccessful in their return, this is a good start in challenging unjust outcomes from colonization and decolonization.