killing denouement

Palestine, BDS and anarchism?

Palestina by Melanie Cervantes
Here’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately, after coming across Wayne Price’s “the Palestinian Struggle and the Anarchist Dilemma, fleshing out my own thoughts on the death of armed struggle, and then following the recent successes of the US Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions campaign. At least thus far it’s been something I’m a bit reluctant to take on especially as it looks like this is what I’ll inshallah be PhD applying to, so maybe part of a series?

BDS – Pushing for institutional change
As much as I wholeheartedly believe in, and work with BDS campaigns at various levels, there’s something that makes me slightly uneasy about banking on consumerist/lifestylist, institutional, and interstatist avenues to produce social change. Not just the question of academic boycott, which I’m wholly torn on, but it that it feels like a ‘necessary evil’, a compromise for campaign efficiency, in a way. Necessary evils – awkward good/evil morality aside, it feels like an awkward liberal binary, or people who consider themselves anti-authoritarian but insist on centralised and hierarchical organisations and meeting structures for ‘efficiency’s sake’. You could perhaps look at it in the view that ‘every little bit helps’, think global act immediately local, and so on . Kind of the way I feel about veganism, buying local/from CSAs, fair trade etc – a good (if privilege imbued) along-the-way means to an end, but not the end in itself. But when BDS becomes, or rather, feels like the only avenue, what then?

[images via Anarchists Against the Wall]

What do you want then, a revolution?
..Yes? But be ‘pragmatic’? Another world is possible but we want THIS world? And so on. It’s worth thinking about what revolution does, and will look like (not to fetishise Landauer again but…) Also interesting to realise that I associate mass armed struggle with marxist-inspired movements in my head at first thought, which is definitely not the case everywhere. But to return to the question – how do anarchists – armed with an anti-statist ideology and belief in autonomous self determination – support the national liberation struggles of Palestinians who largely want to create a new nation state? For the sake of coherency, Uri Gordon and Wayne Price phrase it quite nicely:

Gordon confronts “the apparent contradiction between anarchists’ commitment to support oppressed groups on the latter’s own terms, and those terms being—in the Palestinian case—a new nation-state.” (p. 139) Again, he says that the conflict “…between anarchist’ anti-imperialist commitments … and their traditionally wholesale rebuttal of the state and nationalism…, would seem to leave them at an impasse regarding the national liberation struggles of oppressed peoples.” (p. 152) This expresses the dilemma nicely.

He briefly notes that Bakunin, Gustav Landauer, and Rudolf Rocker—all historically important anarchists—supported a people’s attachment to its own culture and land (including their right to secede from larger units) but opposed national states. Kropotkin supported national liberation struggles of stateless peoples to remove foreign domination. Gordon could have mentioned anarchists’ participation in many national liberation and anti-imperialist struggles around the world, perhaps the most famous being Nestor Mahkno in the Ukraine. However, these examples do not resolve the dilemma of Palestine/Israel.”

Palestinian anarchists
Thirdly – much of the actions I hear about in Palestine seem to be from Israeli or international groups like Anarchists against the Wall or the International Solidarity Movement although of course led and working with Palestinans. How many of the latter would explicitly identify as anarchists; howmuch Arab involvement is there? (And how far does a non-Western passport even take you when waved at the barrel of a cannon?) And if so how much of it is imported and how much homegrown, in the Jordanian examine-our-past-look-to-antiauthoritarian-Sufism manner? Does any of the above even matter at that?

This BDS comic anyway is from the wonderful people at Adalah New York and is available in PDF form for download here

2 Comments so far
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Aye I read the Price article. This is precisely what troubles me with the Palestinian Q/cause. You know until I started speaking to you recently I didn’t really think I had anything to do with anarchism. But yeah when you asked me to speak bolitics the other night I think I realized, my indifference lies largely in the fact that I think the world is broken ie I can’t profess with sincerity that there’s a single meaningful cause in this clusterfuck as long as its principal measure is construed by statist discourse. And as the exchange between Gordon/Price highlights, it gets more complex when you recognize the identity politics/paternalism inherent in prescribing to Palestinians what their cause should or shouldn’t be. (=number one reason I’m tentative about the Pal Q is because it’s been over-intellectualized and in large part rendered them equally voiceless, if visible to the few) I’m glad you’ve been mentioning this. I’m going to make sure I speak to both Jordanian and Israeli anarchists during this upcoming trip.


Comment by Gogo

[...] and China), checkpoints and independence movements being only the beginning. Replete with the same “liberate..into a state? what.” dilemmas, further exacerbated with my being half Kashmiri and fairly confused to boot. The picture [...]

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