Academic journal article Anarchist Studies

Israeli Anarchism: Statist Dilemmas and the Dynamics of Joint Struggle

Academic journal article Anarchist Studies

Israeli Anarchism: Statist Dilemmas and the Dynamics of Joint Struggle

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

This article examines anarchist activities and positions in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and addresses some under-theorised dilemmas that they raise around joint struggle and active solidarity with national liberation struggles. The first part of the article begins with a critique of the scant anarchist polemical writing on Palestine/Israel, which reveals a pervasive reliance on 'old-school' anarchist formulations and a lack of attention to actual struggles on the ground. At the root of these difficulties, I argue, lies the inadequacy of traditional anarchist critiques of nationalism for addressing what seems to be the overriding dilemma in the present context - the question of statehood for a stateless people. As a response, I examine four reasons why anarchists can, in fact, support the statist independence claims of Palestinians and, by extension, of other peoples under occupation. The second part of the article analyses three threads of intervention present in the activities of anarchists and their allies in Israel/Palestine - linking issues, direct action and grassroots peacemaking. The goal here is to examine how the global agendas of contemporary anarchist politics receive a unique local articulation within the context of a joint struggle, and to expose the insights afforded by the experience of Israeli anarchists to social struggles elsewhere.

Issue 13:2 of this journal featured Aaron Lakoff's piece 'Israeli Anarchism - Being Young, Queer, and Radical in the Promised Land', an interview conducted in February 2005 with Yossi Bar-Tal of the Alternative Information Centre, who is also active in various Israeli anti-authoritarian initiatives such as Anarchists Against the Wall and Black Laundry (Lakoff 2005). While informative in its portrayal of the activities and approaches taken by anarchists in Israel/Palestine,1 the interview's brevity and inevitably first-person, conversational frame still leaves a good deal of room for a more analysis-driven approach to anarchist activism in the region, and for engagement with some theoretical issues that arise from the special situation that activists face in this context

The purpose of this article, then, is to examine anarchist responses to the conflict in Palestine/Israel through two lines of inquiry: theoretical and empirical. The first regards anarchist attitudes to national liberation and to solidarity with the non-anarchist agendas of peoples struggling against occupation. Here, the primary issue is the apparent contradiction created by the anarchist commitment to support the ongoing struggles of oppressed constituencies on the latter's own terms - which in the case of Palestinian liberation would inevitably entail support for the creation of a Palestinian state. This would seem to contradict both anarchism's anti-statist positions and its objections to nationalism. In addressing these dilemmas, I begin with a critique of existing anarchist literature on Israel/Palestine, and briefly review the anarchist critique of nationalism and the traditional distinction between the 'nation' and the 'folk'. I go on to argue that there are at least four separate reasons why anarchists can in fact support the Palestinian struggle despite its statist implications.

The second, empirical line of inquiry regards the ongoing anarchist activities in Palestine/Israel. Here, rather than engaging in a merely descriptive exercise, an attempt is made to offer an analytical framework which situates these activities within the context of three threads that characterise the contemporary anarchist movement on a more global scale. These are (a) the linking, in practice and theory, of different campaigning issues and axes of social antagonism through an overarching agenda of struggle against domination and hierarchy; (b) the ethos of direct action and civil disobedience which emphasises unmediated confrontation with social injustices and community self-empowerment; and (c) the construction of alternative modes of social organisation and interaction which have both practical value (in contributing directly to the creation of a different society) and educational/propaganda value (in displaying and exemplifying the validity and practicability of anarchist visions). …

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