De Fabel van de illegaal 57, March/April 2003
Author: Eric Krebbers
It was to be expected, but it's startling all the same. The anti-globalization movement discovered anti-Zionism and seems to divert its attention from "globalization" or "capitalism" to Israel and Palestine. In Italy, the walhalla of the movement, activists lead the way. In the Netherlands the International Socialists (IS) recently started courting the anti-Zionist Arab European League (AEL).
In June 1999 the Dutch anti-racist organization "De Fabel van de illegaal" ("The myth of illegality") got out of the anti-globalization movement. Campaigns that made "globalization" the main enemy turned out to be promoting nationalism as an alternative. Even anarchist activists were heard pleading for a stronger state and the conservation of "our own culture" in order to stop the so called "globalization". De Fabel wrote back then that analyzing in terms of "international capital" or "speculation capital" is "potentially anti-Semitic". "Potentially", because the ideology of this shortcut anti-capitalism shows enormous structural similarities with anti-Semitism, even when there's no talk of "the Jews" owning this "international capital".1
That potential now threatens to be realized in the Netherlands through the encounter between the Trotzkyte IS - very active in the Dutch anti-globalization movement - and the fast growing Arab European League. The League presents Arab nationalism as the only solution for all problems immigrants have to face in Europe.2 The nationalists hit the news when at the end of November 2002 riots broke out in Antwerp after the racist murder on Mohammed Achrak. The AEL got completely criminalized. To commemorate Ashrak en to show "solidarity with the struggle of the AEL" the IS organized a meeting on December 7th near the Belgian consulate in Amsterdam. "We do not want to integrate in a society which places profit above people, and which doesn't care about the Palestinian victims of the Israeli terror", IS-chief Peyman Jafari said at that meeting.3 To some Leftist activists it was maybe a bit unclear why Peyman of all places had to mention Palestine. To the AEL members with their Arab nationalist ideas Peyman's message was probably perfectly clear: in Antwerp and in Palestine "the Arab nation" is supposedly the victim. Peymans words were surely taken as an invitation.
Three weeks later the AEL published "an open letter to the anti-globalization movement" on its website.4 "The AEL is by definition an anti-globalization movement", the League writes. "The Arab nation and the Muslim community (Umma) have since 1991 been the spearhead of the struggle against the violence of the globalization." And: "The anti-globalization movement should link up to these resisting nations", an AEL member wrote on the Indymedia Belgium website.5 In the open letter the AEL uses an extremely militarist language. According to the AEL "globalization" was war, and therefore there would be no more time for a discussion on methods or goals. "Fight back first and philosophize later." That would not be dangerous, because according to the AEL website "there is something in our Arab Islamic culture that makes sure that we cannot sink as low, that resists becoming as barbaric as our enemy."
The AEL thinks it speaks in its open letter in the name of "the Arab nation", a "nation" that supposedly struggles independently of states. "Our support to the resistance of the nation must be explicit and unconditional, irrespective of the ethical and moral dilemmas we might face." So also support for the suicide bombings on arbitrary people by Muslim fundamentalists, who by the way rather call themselves islamists. "In Lebanon the resistance against Israel was successful", writes the AEL, "because it was a national front, it didn't negotiate and no state could control it. It was a front in which islamists, nationalists and communists fought side by side for the freedom of their nation." This is what the AEL wants in Europe too. "The anti-globalization movement cannot be an exclusively Marxist and anarchist club", writes the League. "We do not want to cooperate with Right extremists, but call upon Leftists, center religious revolutionaries and progressive nationalists to unite in one front. De AEL is itself an example of such a front." In the eyes of the AEL "center religious revolutionaries", or Muslim fundamentalists, are not extreme Right.
"We should deliver weapons to everyone that resists against the United States. For everywhere on earth there's just one struggle: against the United States", according to the AEL website. "The globalization" and the strive for an "empire" are according to the open letter mostly driven by the US and "multinationals and cartels". But the summit of "globalization", its most violent form, is obviously Jewish nationalism: Zionism. Through this analysis the AEL makes the potential anti-Semitism in the concept "globalization" manifest: in the end the Jews are the biggest problem. "We support everyone who nowadays fights Zionism and imperialism", it says on AEL's website.
AEL's open letter was actively distributed by the IS. At the same time an enthusiast pro-AEL article appeared on the IS website, written by the prominent IS member Pepijn Brandon. His headline said it all: "Abou Jahjah is right".6 "The rise of the militant multiculturalism of Abou Jahjah is a relief", wrote Brandon. He made it appear that national identities are comparable with Leftist identities. "Being proud on ones own identity and refusing to take on the identity the establishment wants the oppressed group to take on, is an important element in every struggle for emancipation." In this way Brandon treated nationalism, "the fighting for ones own nation", as if it were ultimately the same as the struggle against racism and patriarchy. "Women who refuse to behave according to some imposed image, homosexuals who do not adapt to a heterosexual norm. There's no reason why people with an Arab background cannot have the same attitude." But the point is, nationalism has goals that are diametrically opposed to those of anti-racism and feminism. Feminists and anti-racists struggle against oppression to ultimately overcome differences and oppositions. Nationalists on the other hand want to keep differences between groups of people and even enlarge them. Also anti-racists and feminists, especially the radical ones, want to end all power relations between people. Nationalists on the other hand want to conserve power relations within their "own nation". In other words, feminism and anti-racism go together with anti-nationalism, and not with nationalism, as the IS seems to think.
The courtship of the IS and the AEL is not warmly welcomed by everyone. In anarchist circles many activists argue strongly against nationalism. Criticism came for instance from David of Eurodusnie, an collective based in Leiden, Holland. In an open letter 7 to the IS he wrote: "It may sound somewhat old fashioned, but I reject nationalism and I see religion at best as a personal hobby, something people should keep to themselves." He is surprised that the IS wants to collaborate with a group that foremost wants to combat Zionism. "That capitalism constitutes a problem, I didn't read in AEL's open letter (it is not even mentioned)", David wrote. Capitalism is more than "the evil America", he adds. "Also in Europe and the Arab countries there are people and classes who benefit from capitalism, and others who are its victims." Until now David didn't get an answer from the IS or the AEL. On January 9th 2003 the IS did spread around the concluding document of some Cairo conference which states: "Solidarity with Irak and Palestine are part of the internationalist struggle against the neo-liberal globalization."
To participate in the 2003 elections in Belgium the AEL is now building a common list with the Stalinist PvdA, the Trotzkyte SAP, and anti-globalization and ecology activists. In a report on the negotiations the SAP wrote amongst other things that the AEL supports the entire Palestinian resistance, including the Muslim fundamentalist Hamas and Jihad. On other issues they also ascertained large political differences. And although the report considered the opinions of AEL leader Abou Jahjah "reactionary", the SAP decided to continue the talks.8
After September 11th Palestine seems to have become the grand theme that unites the anti-globalization movement. Apparently only criticism on Israel is able to bring together the many political tendencies in the European movement. Just as once "globalization", nowadays Zionism is more and more seen as the most important problem, and Palestinian flags and shawls have almost become the trademark of the movement. At the recent huge demonstrations in Italy, where the anti-globalization movement probably is the strongest, Palestine seems to have become the central point of reference. Many activists speak of "a worldwide intifada against globalization" and they often shout: "We are all Palestinians". Sometimes it seems as if the movement in Italy sees the extreme Right government in their own country as less of a problem than Sharon's a few thousand kilometers away.
"Have the Israeli politics globalized themselves?", asked the prominent anti-globalization activist and Rifondazione Cominista member of the European Parliament Luisa Morgantini rhetorically in the summer of 2001.9 She meant the roadblocks that were established in the center of Genua to keep the anti-globalization demonstrators away from the G8 conference. According to Morgantini Sharon had proposed such measures to the Italian police during his recent visit to Italy. Also the harsh Italian border control against refugees supposedly was the result of Sharon's "globalization politics".
A boycott of Israel
Leading Italian anti-globalization organizations such as Ya Basta on march 1st 2002 called for a boycott of Israeli products. Also less radical organisations like ATTAC and the unions joined the struggle against Israel. Eight days later some 100.000 anti-globalization activists demonstrated in Rome "to support the Intifada". The demonstrators cried that "the new Hitler" Sharon had to stop his "genocide on the Palestinians". When the demonstration was guided around the Jewish quarters one could here a lot of curses against "the Jews". Almost inevitably anti-Zionism comes together with anti-Semitism.10
In november 2002 during the large anti-globalization conference European Social Forum (ESF) in Florence Palestine was again a central topic. The wife of an imprisoned leader of the ultra nationalist Fatah movement was treated as a heroine on a special Palestine meeting. It was claimed there that the suffering of "the Palestinian nation" is "the worst in the history of humanity".11 Some 1.000.000 activists participated in the ESF anti-war demonstration during which "the Palestinians" were again put central. Many demonstrators turned against Israels right of existence, and not only the also demonstrating Muslims called upon Allah: "Away with Sharon, man of war, intifada, insjallah".12
Even the anti-racist branch of the anti-globalization movement is not free of anti-Semitism. At a demonstration during the bordercamp in Strasbourg in the summer of 2002 activists attacked a synagogue whilst screaming "they are the nazis!". The damage remained small because some 30 fellow activists started to protect the Jewish symbol. During a workshop on Palestine no one offered any criticism on the Muslim fundamentalist bombing of arbitrary Israelis. A French translator was spit upon because she didn't translate hostile enough against Israel.
Why do anti-globalization activists need to identify with "the Palestinians", with some "nation"? We live in a world full of wars, civil wars, dictatorships and occupations, why the obsession with Israel? Why do these inhabitants of worldpower European Union continually make out Israel and the US as "main imperialist enemies"? Why do they not focus on the social and political struggles in Europe itself? These are questions that anti-globalisation activists urgently have to address.