Roundtable on the Borderline
from ..... compiled by Qursana! -
Anarchists from Israel and Lebanon discussed together about the effects of the latest war, their helplessnes, fear and the reasons behind it. Eyal and Anat, holding Israeli passports; and Hazem and Imad holding Lebanese passports are all risking persecution simply for talking to each other. According to Lebanese and Israeli law communication between the respective citizens is prohibited and in some cases punished with a court-martial (though more applied in Lebanon). For this, this is an illegal roundtable – part of it was a defying, challenging and painful conversation that did not go smooth without tears, rage, apologies, pain, guilt, affinity, discussion, smiles, and tight embraces. This conversation is not representative of the mass majority of both populations; it is rather an anarchist worm-eye view of the latest Israeli war on Lebanon. The meeting was facilitated by networks of global solidarity within autonomous spaces in Europe, and also through the growing global anti-capitalist anti-authoritarian movement. A movement that is witnessing crises, but also signs of life!
Why is this war being waged? And what did it mean for you?
Imad “why!!! does it matter? Nothing from this equation will ever make sense! what matters is how! How can Israel after all that it is doing in Palestine, continue to go as far as it did in Lebanon and do it without even a slap on the hand?”
anat “Million reasons, the military always wants to wage wars and especially now that they were planning to make a cut in the defence budget, this was an opportunity to prove the need for a strong military rule over our lives. Olmert and Peretz come from civilian backgrounds, unlike the mass majority of the political strata in Israel, they did not have a military history. They were always criticised about it, and they wanted to prove they are strong. Basically, having taken part in wars is an important key to political jobs in Israel. I also think they were trying to get Syria involved and have an excuse for a US attack on it. They also thought they can terminate Hezbullah and Hassan Nasrallah , as if terminating Hezbullah will kill the chance for another party rise against Israel. To be honest, it is hard for me to see why they did it. It is so ridiculous that it is hard to imagine that anyone could even think of doing that. I feel that this war is about who has the biggest dick. I am being shot at and people are killing in my name and with my money all for this patriarchal honour shit. This war made me sick, and as a woman even sicker.”
Eyal “Actually, I can't say for sure. On one hand, you could say this war got Israel some limited political achievements. Such as an obligation, at least on the official level, of the Lebanese army to go into the south of Lebanon and make it appear as though it was the only armed force there... but otherwise, the war was quite a disaster: Hezbullah was quite effective in many of its forms of attack - in hitting infantry, tanks, and even in some cases special forces and a helicopter. It was shown that Israel could make Hezbullah stop firing rockets - the Israeli leadership made a lot of ridiculous claims when the war started, such as "Hasan Nasrallah will never forget the name Amir Peretz" and I think Olmert said something about wiping Hezbullah off the face of the earth, although maybe it was not as absolute sounding as that. And now there's quite a fallout in Israel on the political level. There's a lot of recrimination amongst the higher-ups, many people are calling for the resignation of Olmert, Peretz and Halutz. Many people see them and this government as a failure.
An important question here is why the U.S. did not restrain Israel - it didn't prevent it from starting the war, nor did it make any effort to curb Israeli military actions or to bring the war to a speedy conclusion - they basically cheered Israel on. Should all this be seen, then, as some preliminary proxy war between the U.S. and Iran? I can't say. I have more questions than answers on this matter.”
What about Hezbullah , how do you see them?
Eyal “Well, for a fundamentalist Islamist, pro-Statist and not anti-Capitalist organization, you could say Hezbullah is kind of neat.
No, seriously, I definitely agree with the policy of actively resisting the Israeli military presence in Lebanon, including the use of guerrilla warfare. The fact that a lot of the military and probably also financial and logistic support is coming from the Iranian regime doesn’t sit all that well with me; but had I been a deeply religious Shiite I wouldn't have had any trouble taking Iranian aid. I object to most of Hezbullah’s policies - reinforcement of traditional social relations and especially the family, support for the continued existence of the state of Lebanon (albeit not necessarily in its current form) and states in general, but to be honest I don't really know that much about Hezbullah’s position on internal social issues, so maybe they're better (or worse) than I think.”
anat “I support Hezbullah in the way I support the people who are oppressed, but if the current division of power changes I am not going to be able to support them because they are a hierarchical patriarchal power who want to maintain the oppressed and oppressor dichotomy. They want to be the oppressors; because of this I am against them as much as I am against Israel being run with the same dichotomy. But they are very different from Israel, because here it is clear who are the oppressed, and I am always with the oppressed. Israel is different, Israel is not worse than any other capitalist state, the difference is that it is my problem. As someone from an Ashkenazi Israeli background, it is my fucking responsibility”
Imad “Despite my strong ideological and structural disagreements with Hezbullah; it is impossible to condemn the capturing (not kidnapping as mainstream media reports) of the two or put any blame on them concerning the Israeli-waged war. Hezbullah is a religious fundamentalist patriarchal party that I am against like any other. We might meet on using armed struggle against the Israeli war machine, but still we have serious disagreements on numerous levels that¨were manifested during my activism in Lebanon in various political confrontations with them. Even at a personal level, as a person who comes from a Muslim Shiite family, we have had our rounds of conflicts. I can criticize Hezbullah endlessly, and also some of the strategies they used during this war, but I cannot condemn the capturing of the two soldiers, nor their armed struggle against the Israeli military force as much as I will not support any calls for their unconditional disarmament. The capturing was declared as a maneuver to exchange the Lebanese prisoners still held in Israeli prisons since as far back as 1975. What was Israel’s “reaction”? More than 1000 civilian casualties, more than 4000 injured, around a million displaced, estimates of 15000 tons of heavy fuel oil spilled in the Mediterranean , and damage to the infrastructure exceeding 2.8 billion euros… and the meter is still rolling. The amount of damage is unbelievable and the reaction is ridiculously outrageous. And on top of that, because of this war, Hezbullah, unfortunately, were given more public sympathy than they ever had - and funnily enough, it was well deserved to a certain extent. ”
Can you give us some first-hand overview of the anti-war movement that took place in your respective countries? And what can you say about the responses to the war?
Eyal “What anti-war movement!? It was just the non-Zionist left like it usually is – along with the Palestinian parties, the various progressive NGOs, the miniature Marxist groups, and assorted anarchists, pacifists, LGTBQ activists… etc. (some of the above categories overlap of course). Maybe after the 3rd week some people started to become disillusioned with the war, but there wasn't really any spontaneous mass anti-war activity.”
anat “I want to start with the hardships; the major hardship in these actions was that the amount of hate skyrocketed in the face of not-so radical slogans. We were a very small and mixed group of people, though we were trying to make a committee as wide as possible and have as wide support as possible against the war. We were trying to find the minimal consensus and find the minimum base lines that we could all agree on; so we decided to use an “anti-war” message, Stop the Bombing, Stop the War, Release All Prisoners, Cease fire now with no preliminary demands; very bland message not the most radical thing to say like anti-Zionism. It was a very simple message to stop the war and that Israel is responsible. For example this basic message was a legitimate political opinion at the end of the previous war on Lebanon not a majority opinion but part of a legitimate mainstream political discourse. Suddenly it became the most treacherous thing to say, the most offensive thing you can say to an Israeli. The majority of the people who stopped to react to our actions where wishing we would die. People were coming ready with eggs to throw at us. One of the demonstrators who parked her car near the demo was followed home by some right wing people who beat her mother with sticks when she opened the door. Some received phone calls threatening to throw a grenade at the demonstration reminding us of a previous incident in 1983 where they actually killed an anti-war demonstrator in that way. This was the amount of hate shown against a mere anti-war statement; they saw it as a real threat. The mainstream was narrowed, the people understood the Stop the War slogan as kill all Jews. The reactions were ridiculous. For them everything in this war, that they think Israel got caught in, was justified. If there is a doubt that some civilian area is linked to Hezbullah, this is enough to bomb it. Everyone acted with the mentality of Nikolai Yezhov, head of the NKVD (Soviet secret police) during Stalinism, who said in response to the news about the terrors of the Stalin regime that “better that ten innocent people should suffer than one spy get away, when you chop wood, chips fly.” For Israel, everything was and still is, when you chop wood, chips fly.
The police were real bastards but it also depends on where the action was. In Tel Aviv for example they were beating people. But in Haifa, where it has always been the case that the police there are less violent than those in Tel Aviv, they did not beat us, but rather they encouraged the right wing demonstrators to beat us. In Haifa they were excessive in detaining people and trying to put them under house arrest just for holding an anti-war vigil. Later they started to protect us more and not let the right wing attack us much; on the other hand they escalated the violence in Tel Aviv where for example during the demo at Dan Halutz’s (Israel´s chief of staff) house they were beating the demonstrators and violently chasing them. There were several fainting cases and people who needed to go to a hospital.
The Israeli media had it all the same, this was a justified war and Israel was caught up in it. They wanted it to appear as a war against Israel and that Israel was forced to react. That was the common discourse, no discussion on whether the war was right or wrong just technicalities: such as if they go into Lebanon as far as Litany or where they were later, or if they let infantry troops in or not. It was o.k. to be critical about how the frontline fighting was handled but not talking about an end to this madness. When we did get some coverage it was very little, for example we had a demonstration almost everyday, and the media would tell us that they cannot cover today’s demo because they covered yesterday’s demo. We got more interviews from foreign media, and even Arabic media which was something we really wanted. We were mentioned several times on LBCI (Lebanese satellite TV channel). I even heard that Hezbullah’s Radio, El Nour, mentioned that they condemn the brutal treatment of the demonstrators in Tel Aviv.
In Haifa, on what the Haifa people call the first day of war, when a Katyusha hit the train station and killed 8 people, on the 16th of July four days after the war started for the Lebanese, a group of women who decided to start a women anti-war group went to the train station to protest and send a message through the mainstream media that was present. They were told by channel ten that they cannot report this action because there is no such thing as an anti-war movement. They had the nerve to deny us even when we were there. In Tel Aviv there were 4000-5000 people in one demo , and in Haifa maybe 300, not to mention other places, but still they acted as if we did not exist.
What was inspiring was that the weekly demos at the Apartheid Wall continued, organised by Palestinians along side with the ISM , Anarchists Against the Wall and others; and so did the repression even though Israel managed to shift the world’s attention from what was happening in Gaza and the West Bank to Lebanon. Just recently, on the 11th of August, they shot an Israeli lawyer and activist Lymor Goldstein in Bil’in with rubber-coated bullets at close range, sending him into coma. We cannot forget what is happening in Gaza and also that the wall is continuing its path! During the recent war on Lebanon they killed around 23 people in Gaza in one day but no one was talking about it. The people of Gaza are being starved and denied urgent medical care. It is completely crazy - Gaza is a huge concentration camp where they are slowly killing people.”
Hazem “I remember having a great laugh listening to my dad asking himself where are the Arabs while we are being bombed? Wondering where is the whole world and how can they accept this? Well they accept this and do not react the same way we did not react to the war on Iraq or the way we don’t give a flying fuck about people starving to death in Africa. Most of the Lebanese anti-war movement was based on nationalist and/or economical/political interests. As for the small amount of leftist activists or pseudo-parties they were too weak to make a real statement or take a proactive position without taking into consideration the reaction of the blinded population.
The Lebanese anti-war movement’s work focused on the relief efforts that in majority did not differ from the mainstream political mentality. The mainstream political parties did their usual routine by sending their members to show face in refugees’ centres bargaining on more public support for their party. These same parties that forced their presence and flags on independent relief centres started their work a week after the war started. They began spending big amounts of money on their publicity while asking people to donate before they even started doing work on the ground. For example the World Food program donated 10 tons of food to one of the relief centres who had paid employees delivering the food with more than 20 camerapersons filming the food distribution on refugees.
Many mainstream organisations said they cannot reach south of Lebanon and thus cannot deliver aid. We proved this wrong with our actions. 7 activists from RASH managed to get to the south and deliver food on their feet. The parties did not want to risk their lives. At first everyone took us as a joke especially when we refused to take donations unless it came from individuals or radical organisations and still managed to deliver around a ton of food to people in the south who were under siege. I have to note all respect to the Samidoun(stemming from the Sanayeh relief centre) that managed to create a grassroots coalition for people whose intention is to help out.”
On the Lebanese side, there was a communiqué issued recently by the so-called “Libertarian Communist Alternative” from Lebanon that was circulated on certain anarchist/anti-authoritarian websites/lists and created a stir, what do you think about that?
Hazem “I find it shameful. It describes the current government that recently took power as pre-revolutionary, which is crap. This government is based on the common interest of - strangely enough - extremely different parties on the ideological level; parties that feed on anti-Syrian racism. I’m not discussing the retrieval of the Syrian troops, but about the forms of violence that faced Syrian civilians in Lebanon who anyway were already being exploited and discriminated against. The Libertarian Communist Alternative never showed up to any actions, we never saw them anyway on the field, and they refused to meet with us. I can write pages criticising them, but I will not waste my time, they are insignificant, it is not the brand of your organisation that makes you an anarchist.”
Imad “Have to say I never heard of them as a group, for example the name of the group was new to me. I heard about one guy in Beirut who is part of this so-called group but I do not know if it is for sure, nor who the rest are… that is if there is a rest. As for the communiqué, it does not represent me nor the politics I define as libertarian or anarchist. On the local front, it sees hope in the 14th of March alliance which is a capitalist alliance between the ruling class in Lebanon which is corrupt, capitalist, and feeding on people’s misery and actively contributing to it. Many from this alliance can be easily linked to parties and political currents responsible for crimes against humanity, not just during the Lebanese civil war, but also against the Palestinian population in Lebanon. Such an alliance, so-called “movement”, can never be something to look forward to nor see any hope in but rather fight against. This communiqué reminds me of the Iraqi opposition outside of Iraq that was supporting that US war, those were the same ones that opposed the Ba’ath regime from their air-conditioned homes in Europe and North America, and now installed their ruling class in Iraq collaborating with every state and multinational to plunder and terrorise the Iraqi people just like Saddam did.”
Though that this war is clearly not over, it seems that the whole world shifted attention away from what just happened, and is now focused on the positioning of the UN “international peace force” in the south of Lebanon as the saviours of the day, how do you see that?
anat “It all seems ridiculous to me, what are they going to do? It is some kind of a media thing, Bush and all these leaders want to show that they are doing something, but obviously the agenda is for war not for peace. Obviously what we are dealing with here is the foreplay for the next U.S. war in the Middle East. The U.N. forces will not stop anything, they were there when Israel was occupying Lebanon for 18 years and their headquarters have been bombed by Israel several times.”
Imad “Ridiculous, the least to say! What for? Even if they are meant to do something, why in the south of Lebanon? Israel is the aggressor, why not position themselves in the north of Israel/Palestine. To protect who and from who? Israel bombed a UN base in 1996 in Qana , Lebanon , massacring over a 100 refugees, that took refuge in that base believing that the highly visible UN post would be spared the Israeli attacks; and what happened, an apology and some political charade. They did it again in this recent attack killing four UN personnel by bombing a UN base in the south of Lebanon. The "international peace troops" are like the UN, a hypocritical lie and another way to waste money and efforts. The UN is a hierarchal body, used to domesticate the world and one that supports state-terrorism and the plundering of impoverished people. It´s worthless and needs to be held accountable. I would not expect any good from them nor their troops.”
Eyal “They are foreign Imperialistic invaders who should leave immediately; I will not have any reason to complain if somebody puts bullets through their heads. Really, if those asshole European states had any concern for the lives and the safety of people in this region they could have sent some anti-aircraft batteries and stationed them in Lebanon to prevent any attack on Lebanese villages and towns.”
Hazem “After all, what is the United Nations other than a tool in the hands of the powerful to make the weakened weaker. I refuse any sort of cooperation with this structure. It’s like stopping to smoke on your death bed.”
The questions stopped here, but they did not end. This was the beginning - the beginning has been happening for a while now and this is the first written discussion between us. It is reflections, rage and solidarity; it is nothing but the beginning for a deeper discussion, wider reflections and louder rage. Many is still left to be answered and discussed. The war had just begun… again!
resolution 3379 - UN General Assembly - 1975
THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY,