From Mutual Struggle to Mutual Aid:
Moving Beyond the Statist Impasse in Israel/Palestine
What about a no-state solution? Self determination for everyone, no borders, police, or soldiers. A right-of-return for both Jews and Palestinians.
—Pirate Prentice (2002)
The regime that will succeed the nation-state will not be the fruit of preconception or social engineering, but of sociological and political imagination wielded through transformative actions.
—Gustavo Esteva (2003)
I Introduction: Reclaiming the Commons
1. Reinventing politics in Israel and Palestine means laying the groundwork now for a kind of Jewish-Palestinian Zapatismo, a grassroots movement to ‘reclaim the commons’ (Klein 2001; Esteva and Prakash 1998). This would mean moving towards direct democracy, participatory economy and genuine autonomy for the people; towards Martin Buber's vision of "an organic commonwealth . . . that is a community of communities" (1958: 136). We might call it the 'no-state solution.'
2. Forms of neoliberal governmentality do not work here, are unsustainable. At all spatial scales, Israelis and Palestinians have learnt they have no security from the bankruptcy of its iterations: a tale of Sisyphus, Tolstoy's 'government is violence' writ monstrous, its icon the Separation Wall. Indeed, the impasse in Israel/Palestine is, in its distinctive form, a microcosm of the pervasive vacuity of our received political imaginaries. And the ruling elites that administer them. In a sense, this conflict is emblematic of the "perverse perseverance of sovereignty," its "vicious, security-based ontology" (Burke 2002). We need to turn that authoritarian ontology on its head. Precisely where community has imploded and the commons is controlled on both sides of the divide by hierarchies of violence.
3. The conflict and Israel's self-identity and national myth are at a 'liminal' moment. A time for fresh vision. Israel/Palestine offers a unique microlaboratory for experimenting with another kind of polity, advancing, to echo Kropotkin, from mutual struggle to mutual aid (Salzman 2002, 2003; Cleaver 1993). Its very aporia demands a new array of algorithms: "This does not mean unity for socialism or any other singular post-capitalist ‘economic’ order, but rather the building of … a new mosaic of interconnected alternative approaches to meeting our needs and elaborating our desires" (Cleaver 1997). And in that sense drafting alternative models of polity to address the general crisis of the capitalist world-system that Wallerstein (1998) diagnoses.
4. I speculate here on a staged transformation: moving from two states (Stage One) to a unitary, bi-national state (Stage Two), and on to what we might call the 'Jerusalem Cooperative Commonwealth.' Paradoxically, the present Geneva Accords initiative, its endgame a Bantustan-like Palestinian state, is a potential step forward in this dialectic. The public mood on both sides of the divide and international geopolitical configurations demand some such exit. Ordinary Palestinians under Occupation require oxygen, a shell for security. A stopgap emergency measure on which to build a dialectic for its sublation.
Paths in Utopia?
5. In charting new decentralized institutions, Wallerstein speaks about 'utopistics': "not the face of the perfect (and inevitable) future, but the face of an alternative, credibly better, and historically possible (but far from certain) future" (1998: 2). A utopistic heuristic is in order in the disorder of Israel/Palestine. To generate another kind of political and economic imaginary. Harvey has noted that there is a time and place "where alternative visions, no matter how fantastic, provide the grist for shaping powerful forces for change. I believe we are precisely at such a moment. Utopian dreams … are omnipresent in the signifiers of our desires" (2000: 195).
6. Sec. II (7-12) explores changing our ways of changing, Sec. III (13-15) some ideas on space and scalarity in this conflict, sec IV (16-18) the problem of conflicting national narratives and their defusing. Sec. V (19-26) reviews recent renewed discussion of the bi-national state, sec. VI (37-34) the two-state interim option (Stage One). Sec. VII (35-36) discusses the ultimate power tool of non-violence in this transformation. Sec. VIII (37-39) looks at nodes of 'co-existence' (ta'ayush / dukium), sec. IX (40-47) sketches 'what is to be undone,' tapping Parecon, social ecology and other ideas in building 'direct democracy.' Sec. X (48-57), speculates on Stage Two, the unitary state, and moving beyond it, sec. XI (58-60) on the anti-authoritarian Israeli and Palestinian spaces that can be built now. Sec. XII (61-62) touches on a regional matrix for change, sec. XIII (63-65) looks briefly at retrieving libertarian traditions in the Israeli political legacy.
II Changing our Ways of Changing
7. The only viable way to overcome the clashing national narratives in Israel/Palestine is through new forms of participatory economy and autonomy at multiple scales that return the polis to the people (Esteva 2001; 2003). Beginnings can be small. There is one: the social-anarchist space now opened on the Israeli left by the libertarian affinity group One Struggle (Ma'avak Ehad¸ http://www.onestruggle.org) needs to be broadened, and extended into Palestinian society. Popularizing its anti-authoritarian values into a grassroots movement to prioritize equity, diversity, solidarity, and self-management within and across the communities in this internecine struggle (Albert 2003: 4ff). Advancing a call for "non-hierarchy, confederated direct democracies, communal economics, social freedom, and an ecological sensibility" (Alliance for Freedom and Direct Democracy 2002). The focus on animal rights inside One Struggle (human and animal liberation) is a distinctive component many libertarian socialists would not espouse so centrally. But their overall analysis is congruent with core libertarian positions, and they are in daily motion against militarism, Zionism, the Israeli armed forces and the Occupation (One Struggle 2003).
8. And in the forefront of direct action against the Apartheid Wall. In late December 2003, a young Israeli protester from Anarchists Against the Wall helping to dismantle part of what Sharon's government calls the gader hafrada (Separation Fence) was seriously wounded by Israeli troops. The borderland space of the Wall is catalyzing multiple forms of direct confrontation between an enraged citizenry and the state. At this hyperboundary, Israel is beginning to implode on itself.
9. The theoretical mix I draw on here is eclectic. It encompasses elements from participatory economics (Albert 2003), social ecology/communalism (Bookchin 1999; Fotopoulus 1997), the Zapatista autonomous community as a model and method of struggle (Midnight Notes Collective 2001; McLaren 2002), and the direct-democracy projections of Jared James (2002) and Akiva Orr (1996). That eclecticism reflects the present 'hundred flowers' stage in the renewal of libertarian theory, being churned in part by the dynamism of Zapatismo. This upsurge represents in some sense a 'grassroots' recovery and foregrounding of the anti-statist dimensions of 'autonomist' Marxism (Dyer-Witherford 1999; 1994), in part a renewal of utopian reason (Wallerstein 1998). For Negri (1989: 87), the experimentation with coalitions, rainbows, rhizomes, networks, affinity groups and webs - transverse, 'multi-centered' forms of struggle - a recent salient feature of anti-capitalist movements, marks the search for a manifold, polyvalent new politics. I am also suggesting a renewed look at Buber's communalism, retrofitted to the future and minus the Zionist envelope - notwithstanding Uri Davis’s (2002) accurate deconstruction of its nationalist blinders. Buber's conception of 'community' seeks to address "the greatest crisis humanity has ever known" (Buber 1958: 129) and is not tied to Zionism.
10. Central is the view that social transformation must build bottom-up from the scale of the household and neighborhood. That if 'place' is 'humanised space,' Israelis and Palestinians must learn to forge their own identities and futures through the construction of 'progressive places' (Massey 1994; Taylor and Flint 326ff.), the matrix for a "new politics of ethnicity, race, gender and class" (ibid., 327). In the fight to transform capitalism, we are really struggling against our own dehumanization, at the molecular level of everyday life and the household as consumption unit on up the pyramid of hegemony to neoliberal globalization and its Disequilibrium Machine (Hodge 2002: 14). Anti-authoritarian transformative politics is distinctively sensitive to this geometry of 'scale.'
11. Key to the dialectic of transformation is Ulrich Beck’s notion of ‘sub-politics,’ "shaping society from below," what he calls a "'politics of politics' in the sense of altering the rules of the game itself." (1994: 40). Sub-politics creates a social order of 'reflexive modernity,' where authority is perennially under scrutiny and "all forms of hierarchy are routinely challenged" (Taylor 1999: 133). The multifaceted peace movement in Israel/Palestine, exemplified by Gush Shalom, Ta'ayush, Betselem, Bat Shalom and other groups, is an example of creative sub-politicization in action. As is the grassroots Palestinian resistance initiative Stop the Wall (http://stopthewall.org), itself a school for non-violence. Conversely, so is the extreme counter-militance of Hamas and Islamic Jihad. What is needed is an anti-authoritarian sub-politics on both sides of the divide.
12. Analogues are unfolding on other peripheries, the World Social Forum (Mumbai, Jan. 2004) their sounding board for mutual momentum. Esteva (2003) stresses that many indigenous movements have "alternative cultural understandings of power that do not fit easily into the nation-state structures." They are interested in "not just taking over existing power structures, but transforming existing notions of how power itself should be wielded. Their view of power is built from the grassroots upwards – that is, it is embedded in the community."
Images courtesy of: www.stopthewall.org
III The Scalarity of Monstrous Spaces
13. The monstrous landscape the Hundred Years' War in Palestine has produced is indeed one where "at every fractal scale … every level … exhibits a common form, characterized by a radical transgression of boundaries, and the production of new forms, new ‘monsters’ to fear or welcome" (Hodge 2002: 14). Distinctive to the project of political Zionism has been its antipathy to setting any fixed boundaries to its embodiment. That is integral to the irresolvable aporia at the very heart of the Israeli state. Diner (1982) develops a complex analysis of the abhorrence of permanent boundaries in the Zionist project and the repeated creation of new provisional borders (such as the Wall today, far beyond the 'Green Line'). That refusal to draw boundaries informs the resistance of Israeli statecraft to any written constitution. Chilling as it is, the Israeli polity resembles in some ways a Bewegungsstaat, the 'state of a movement,' where policies on spatiality are infected by an insidious ideology of Lebensraum, demographics and ethnic 'purification.' The Wall is a latter-day embodiment of the Revisionist movement's strategic dream expressed by Ze'ev Jabotinsky, Sharon's mentor, in 1923: "settlement can thus develop … behind an iron wall which they will be powerless to break down" (Jabotinsky 1923).
14. Israeli fixation on security and bifurcation of space has led to (a) an apartheid ethnocracy inside the 'Green Line,' (b) an extrapolated mazeway of boundaries and checkpoints to suffocate Palestinian place in the West Bank and Gaza unparalleled in its spatial perversity, and now (c) a Kafka-esque Great Wall of Palestine, literally mincing the landscape. Indeed, Israeli and Palestinian space everywhere is in extreme torsion, wrenched at multiple scales, from household to nation, by a preoccupation with mortal danger and security. To the point where one could almost speak of a 'geopolitics at the household scale' (Taylor and Flint 2000: 352 ff.), a 'geopolitics of the agora and city street,' as bizarre as it may sound. We have reached a juncture in Israel/Palestine where for both peoples locked in this inferno, the geopolitical--defined by Dalby (1998: 295) as the "power to define danger and … the ability to describe the world in ways that specify appropriate political behaviours in particular contexts to provide 'security' against those dangers" - begins in a sense in the bedroom, the kitchen, at the bus stop. It has become existential. Scalarity here is hypertrophied in singular forms and freaks of spatial manipulation and sealing, crisscrossing a mesh of multiple anxieties, protective barriers, house demolitions, seizures and suffocations. A prime instantiation of the 'ontology of emergency': "How could we not think that a system that can no longer function at all except on the basis of emergency would not also be interested in preserving such an emergency at any price?" (Agamben 2000).
15. My argument here does not debate whether and how the nation-state is waning globally (Biersteker and Weber 1996) - but speculates on how its grotesque geometry could be sublated over the middle term in the microcosm of Palestine. Inverting the unique perversion at its smallest scales to build a bottom-up transformation. Nor can the present paper explore the fuller relevance of postmodern geopolitics (Ó Tuathail 1998: 28-34) as an adjunct frame for a communalist imaginary and social movement. Part of what is needed is a feminist geopolitics that "decenters state security, the conventional subject of geopolitics and … seeks embodied ways of seeing and material notions of protection for people on the ground" (Hyndman 2003: 7). A more 'social-anarchist' geopolitics of the scales of security would attempt to show how decentralized, non-hierarchized structures better 'secure' human lives (Hyndman 2001). Libertarian theory needs to look to critical geopolitics to more cogently frame and ground its own projects and grasp the 'glocal' character of its struggles. And Taylor and Flint (2000: 367) remind us that a "new 'sub-political geography' is only just beginning to be created in practice." Routledge (1998: 256) underscores the imperative of an interactive process of collaboration - a "politics of articulation" - between critical theorists in geopolitics and social movements.
IV The Defusing of Nationalism
16. The fierce ethno-nationalism driving this internecine conflict must be transmuted. The alchemy for reconstitution of identity is not through a re-inscription of borders and divides. It must flow from the social movements yet to be created, their kernel in groups like One Struggle/Ma'avak Ehad. The staged transformation suggested is predicated on the conviction that at this juncture, the Palestinians have an absolute right to national self-determination in liberation from their primary oppression, the Israeli Occupation, and Israeli apartheid inside the ethnocratic state. Seismic readings of shifts in Israeli national identity suggest ever more Israelis are beginning to question the very moorings of their national narrative. Beneath the turmoil, the process of erosion of "the entire ideological edifice of Zionist exclusivity" (Finger 2001) has continued, further undermining the founding myths of the Jewish state. Much of that opposition is inchoate alienation. But helps define the 'liminal' present moment.
17. In a recent self-reflection on Israeli identity, Gilad Atzmon has argued that "more than anything else, Jewish nationalism must be abandoned. … Israel proves that the Jewish state is an impossible concept" (2003). Under a cracking surface, there are powerful displacements, as reflected in the pilots' revolt (Avnery 2003b). Both national narratives will have to pass through an alembic as new identities embedded in transformed 'progressive places' at household and neighborhood scales evolve (see below), in turn generating a heuristic of alternative forms of community. As Diner (2004) notes: "Peace agreements neutralize pasts by imposed amnesias." Such therapeutic amnesia is part of the required healing here. Burke (2002) stresses the Levinasian imperative in this process of profound reconciliation of a "deep transformation of the ways we think about, narrate and deploy identity. All these conflicts need to be rethought in terms of the call to ethics and the love of the Other." Yet this is an ethics that must engage cultures of memory singularly fixated on the utter negativity of the Jewish catastrophe in Europe and al-Nakba, the 1948 Palestine cataclysm.
18. The mass murder of the Jews, the "rupture in civilization" (Diner 2004) which the Holocaust embodies, remains in consciousness the critical 'foundation event' for the establishment of the State of Israel. Diner even suggests Israel's 1948 cease-fire boundaries can be termed the "borders of Auschwitz," seemingly legitimated by the mass annihilation. Many Jews in Israel and around the world still believe the Jewish state that has evolved, whatever its failings, cannot be turned into another kind of pluralistic polity, its Zionist structures dismantled. But others sense the imperative to press beyond the very ontology of that self-destructive Jewish nationalism reproduced in consciousness by Auschwitz and its cultures of memory, particularly in Israel. And to universalize the Holocaust within an anti-genocidal ethics grounded on a globalizing morality of human rights, as the core of a reinvigorated Jewish rage for justice, equality and freedom (Levy and Sznaider 2001).
V Bi-National State?
19. As myths erode, a tectonic shift is emerging in dialogue on the Israeli state. In bewilderment and despair, ever more voices in Israel and elsewhere are calling for a unitary Jewish-Arab polity--and in effect the dismantling of Israel’s Zionist foundations, an end to the 'Jewish state.' And more Palestinians are coming to endorse a return to the concept of a single bi-national democratic polity, a departure from the delusive 'dream' of an independent Palestine. Yet discussion in all camps other than the anti-authoritarians, even those ‘internationalist’ in outlook, seems stubbornly monolithic, overdetermined by the imperatives of the Occupation. It is worth reviewing some of this talk to sense its nearly uniform dearth of vision. Discourse and action would seem to instantiate Bookchin's (1991) observation that "perhaps the greatest single failing of movements for social reconstruction … is their lack of a politics that will carry people beyond the limits established by the status quo."
On the Internationalist Marxist Left
20. The organized non-Zionist left in Israel, exemplified in the small activist groupings ODA (Organization for Democratic Action/Da’am) and Socialist Struggle (Ma’avak Sotsialisti), opposes the two-state solution in any form. ODA (http://www.odaction.org) seems to envision a resurrected Soviet-style socialist world, while Ma’avak is allied with a Trotskyist internationalist tendency (http://www.maavak.org.il). But they do not question the State as a container of political life. Identifying the obstacle as capitalism in its global and regional configurations, ODA and Ma’avak project a ‘socialist Middle East’ as the only viable matrix for a genuine solution. The fanciful geopolitical scale for 'vanguard' imaginaries. ODA calls for the need to "lead humanity towards socialism," but not even the barest contours of that society and polity are projected, or any embodied strategy on how to get there. The Defence of Marxism Circle in Israel/Palestine likewise projects 'socialist revolution' as the sole solution, its endpoint a "federal socialist state within the framework of a socialist federation of the Middle East … and even such a federation, in the long run, would have to be part of the process of world socialist revolution" (Schwartz 2003). Moshe Machover’s (2002) insistence on a ‘regional socialist union’ as the only matrix for genuine transformation of society and polity is analogous, but he too has not articulated any more coherent vision of future scenario beyond ending the Occupation and a return of the refugees.
In the Peace Camp
21. Uri Avnery, grand old man of the left Peace Bloc (Gush Shalom), typifies the single-issue ‘reactivism’ of a movement of principled resistance to state violence, bogged down in received conceptions of polity and society. The Peace Bloc does not elaborate any politics of visionary social transformation after an end to the Occupation and creation of the Palestinian Bantustan'd state. For his part, Avnery (2003a) is adamant in rejecting bi-nationalism as utopian and ‘escapist,’ concluding that it necessarily would "at this point in time …. [be] an occupation regime in a new form that would thinly disguise a reality of exploitation and economic, cultural and probably political repression."
The Unitary State Redux
22. Yet in desperation, some veteran peace activists have started to call for precisely that: a rejuvenation of the ‘one-state’ solution. The most detailed and perhaps startling endorsement of the one-state, binational future, to be launched now, is the eighth chapter of Daniel Gavron (2003), where he blueprints in some detail an imagined transition to a 'democratic' unitary state: the new 'state of Jerusalem' (Yerushalayim in Hebrew/Ursalim al-Kuds in Arabic). For Gavron, this is the only option given the settlement patterns in the West Bank at this point and the looming danger of a 'South African solution.' One of the pioneers of the Negev model 'development town' of Arad and a long-time Labor Zionist, Gavron proposes repealing the Law of Return that has made Israel an automatic haven for Jews anywhere in the world (arguing that today Israel has become a liability for many Jews, both in the state and in the Diaspora), and creating a complex geometry that would allow maximum ethnic, religious, cultural and educational autonomy for the communities that will comprise the state of Jerusalem. Though no longer a 'Zionist' state, Israeli culture could continue to flourish at most scalar levels, and dominate numerically - as long as there were no massive return of Palestinian refugees. Gavron does not speculate on new forms of communalism and grassroots symbiosis as an incubator for such a 'free and democratic' structure, assuming it can be somehow imposed top-down, modeled on present Israeli institutions.
23. Meron Benvenisti (ex-deputy major of Jerusalem and allied with the left Zionist Meretz party) has begun to muse about a federalized canton-like mosaic from the sea to the desert, rejuvenating conceptions from the 1930s. Meron (Hanegbi and Benvenisti 2003) fears it will not work, and yet he vacillates:
Because I know that there will not be a Jewish nation-state here and that there will not be two states for two nations here, I seize on this faint hope that maybe, after all, something shared will evolve here. Something neo-Canaanite. That maybe, despite everything, we will learn to live together.
Yet he does not venture any alternative vision. In a similar vein, veteran activist Haim Hanegbi (2003) has broken with the Peace Bloc:
So I think the time has come to declare that the Zionist revolution is over. Maybe it should even be done officially, along with setting a date for the repeal of the Law of Return. We should start to think differently, talk differently. … the mad dream of sovereignty will have to be given up.
What ‘thinking and talking differently’ might involve is not spelled out beyond an ‘invocation’ of a unitary polity and new ‘mixed’ cities across the land.
24. Tony Judt (2003) recognizes that a bi-national state would require "the emergence, among Jews and Arabs alike, of a new political class. The very idea is an unpromising mix of realism and utopia, hardly an auspicious place to begin. But the alternatives are far, far worse." He could try to imagine a more ‘promising’ mix, but doesn’t. Virginia Tilley (2003) seconds Judt, arguing the obvious: the need for a "political path through the transition from rival ethno-nationalisms to a democratic secular formula which would preserve Israel's role as a Jewish haven while dismantling the apartheid-like privileges" that infest its ethnocracy. She too projects no grassroots change that could reinvent politics and transform civil society, Jewish and Palestine. The responses to Judt and his rejoinder (Judt et al. 2003) likewise do not depart from familiar contours.
Palestinian Alternatives to Oslo and the Road Map
25. A small minority of Palestinians, in opposition to Oslo and the Palestinian Authority, have voiced support over the past decade for a unitary state, including Azmi Bishara, Mahmoud Darwish, Sari Nusseibeh, Jalal Ghazi, Fadi Kiblawi (2003), Omar Barghouti (2003) and Ali Abunimah (2003) of The Electronic Intifada. (Excellent websites for the one-state solution are: http:// www.ap-agenda.org and http:// www.one-state.org). As’ad Ghanem (2003) provides a useful chronicle of the bi-national option and its history in Palestinian and Israeli thought and public opinion. Ghada Karmi (2002) believes a strategy of bi-nationalism is "not unthinkable," however "utopian" at the present juncture, and might "even ultimately pave the way to the secular democratic state in historic Palestine." Yet all the arguments in these speculations are couched in terms of a received capitalist-democratic political imaginary.
26. No where in the broader Jewish or Palestinian discussion in English (see also Ateek and Prior 1999; Prior 2004) has an even partial vision of a transformed society and politics within the shell of that unitary state been projected. Discourse reiterates standard vocabularies on justice, equality, pluralism and democratic ideals, the familiar neoliberal logic of economy and rule. An end to apartheid. Only One Struggle is explicit about projecting a radical rethink - a ‘rule-altering politics’ from the bottom up (Beck 1994), seeking to overcome statecraft, Bookchin's term (1999: 325) for the top-down system of pseudo-representative government ultimately based on the state's monopoly of violence.
VI Stage One: Utopian Realism?
27. Imagine a phased metamorphosis: a minimum program, with practical demands to address the most pressing problems, and a transitional agenda. One alternative builds from an end to occupation, the dismantlement of most settlements and the passage to ‘two states side by side’ as Stage One. It reluctantly acknowledges the prospect of a bifurcated Palestinian entity likely to emerge under the Authority as part of the bourgeois ‘peace process.’ This is the only option on any road-map table, and what the Geneva Accords seek to enact (for a critique of these accords, see Schwartz and Cohen 2003). Machover’s (2002) assessment is essentially correct:
given the present imbalance of forces … and the utterly corrupt state of the official Palestinian leadership, ‘any kind of scenario’ will in practice result in a reactionary and oppressive setup, in which the Palestinians will be the main victims, but in which also the Israeli workers would indirectly lose out, as a nation that oppresses another cannot itself be free.
28. Though the implications are fraught, the two-state pseudo-solution seems the sole pragmatic option for change as an interim arrangement. To accept a two-state phase while working for its overcoming is not counterintuitive. Perhaps it is akin to what Giddens in a related context has called ‘utopian realism’ (Giddens 1994: 194). Harel (2003) comes close to this dialectical view. Michael Neumann (2003) argues cogently that the two-state settlement, whatever its configuration, is now imperative to ward off threats to Palestinian survival:
If the Palestinians are to live, if they are to have a platform from which to demand a single state, if they are to acquire the power to make their demands heard, it can only be from the relative sanctuary of their own country. They haven't the slightest chance of obtaining this sanctuary except in the West Bank and Gaza. So the one-state solution absolutely requires a two-state solution. If ever there was a false dilemma, it is any claim that the two alternatives are mutually exclusive.
Even though he does not dismiss the single-state solution, he knows it is a "very long-term project."
A Dialectic of Bottom-Up Transformation: Mosaic Places
29. In this projected calculus for change: the truncated Palestinian state - and a still Zionist-nationalist Israel dominating it - would be an incubator for creating ‘dual power’ over the middle term, ‘hollowing out’ capitalist structures and top-down bureaucracies. The dialectic of such reconfiguration of power and its scalar spaces would have to operate through a 'rainbow space' that must be created, with the two national communities in ever more integrative synergy. It entails transforming neighborhoods, generating hybrid places out of segregated spaces (Johnston 1991; Taylor 1999: 96-105). It is distinctively micro-scalar.
30. A major bridging goal should be mixed communities inside Israel. Indeed, social-geographical work on the ‘five mixed Jewish-Arab cities’ by Ghazi Falah and others could provide part of the researched foundation for rethinking multiethnic communities, a hundred new towns and co-operative settlements modeled in part on the peace village Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam, with mixed multicultural schools. Neve Shalom is a tiny experimental space where Jews and Arabs have lived together in close interaction for two decades, unique in Israel. Akko north of Haifa is the most mixed of these mixed towns, with 60% Jewish and 40% Arab, and could become a laboratory for change. Its schools today are totally segregated. Haifa itself has some 50,000 Arabs, around 13% of the city’s population, another turf for fresh experiment in ta’ayush/dukium (togetherness). Such bridge-building is in effect the idea behind a recent initiative ‘Mosaic Communities’ launched by veteran activist Fred Schlomka (2003a):
By building an alternative institution on a firm democratic foundation, MOSAIC COMMUNITIES may eventually motivate a change in the exclusive Jewish nature of the national institutions in Israel. Since civic institutions form the backbone of any vibrant democracy, we envisage that our success will spawn additional alternative institutions in other areas of the economic and social matrix.
Their newsletter (Mosaic Communities 2003) provides information on developments.
31. In the evolving metabolism of such a system for autonomous decision-making and allocation, extending across the "mixed cities and mixed neighborhoods and mixed families" that Haim Hanegbi (2003) visions, the salience of ‘ethnic-national’ identities would fade as organic solidarity builds. These ‘spectrum’ or ‘rainbow’ communities, more radicalized than in Schlomka’s (2003b) conception, would also be platforms and arenas for evolving more flexible and decentralized systems of authority and self-reflexivity, and forums for real contestation and consensus-building. Self-management is direct democracy’s best school. In work places, especially inside new forms of libertarian syndicalist praxis, modeled in part of the experience of the Italian cobas 'base union' experience (Romito 2003). Once again, mini-scalar, at the level of the shop and school floor.
Labor Autonomism and Dual Power
32. Central to an engine for change under the PA and the iron grip of the Histadrut labor bureaucracy in Israel are autonomous labor movements of Palestinian and Israeli workers. In July 2002, 5,000 unemployed Palestinian workers protested against the Palestinian Authority in Gaza. They denounced the PA's failure to live up to promises of unemployment support (Hass and Benn 2002). A transformation of the labor movement and workers’ consciousness is key to building for revolutionary social reconstruction, within a broader 'inside geopolitics' (Slater 1997) of dual power: "Dual power seeks to erode the legitimacy of the state and other systems of centralized power by developing popular power at the grassroots level in communities, workplaces, schools, and wherever else we see the potential to do so" (Alliance 2002; see also Dominick 2002).
33. The two states should become an arena for joint struggle: to de-Zionize Israel into a ‘state for all its citizens,’ and to democratize at multiple scales whatever enclaved polity emerges under the Palestinian ruling elite. How dual power could be built in a Palestinian society now facing the deeply anchored dual power of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other counter-violence is a separate complex question only Palestinian anti-authoritarians can begin to address. One alternative is building massive non-violent resistance.
Countering Authoritarian Mindsets
34. In the Israeli state, with its highly intricate and interlinked bureaucracies of Control and hierarchies of power - what other country has a major national radio station, Galei Tsahal, operated by the army? - it is urgent to carve out counterspaces to challenge the militarized social order, its norms and values, deepening a new ethics of difference, as the manifesto of One Struggle (2003) emphasizes: "in the state of Israel, the sway of nationalism and the cult of force are among the most powerful and terrible in the world." In the words of a New Profile activist, that order is "the major mechanism to keep all Arabs, the disabled, homosexuals and particularly women in their ‘place.’" (Hiller 2002). New Profile is a feminist organization opposing militarism in Israeli society and education. After three decades of feminist activism in Jewish Israel, "little has changed in the material conditions of Israeli women's lives" (Freedman 2003). In the new group Black Laundry (Kvisa Sh'chora, http://www.blacklaundry.org), the gay and transsexual community is organizing against the state, the Occupation and their own multiple oppression. A 'networking' militarism pervades Israeli society, decades of oppression, occupation and lack of self-determination have generated a complex geometry of stratified power within Palestinian society. Palestinian women in Israel, in multiple oppression, are also in motion, as exemplified in the work of Manar Hasan and al-Fanar, an Arab women's group based in Haifa (see Hasan 2003).
VII The Ultimate Power Tool
35. In advancing a mass movement for fundamental change in Israel/Palestine, non-violent resistance should gravitate to the heart of praxis. Amos Gvirtz (2003) of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) and the Forum Recognition has pointed to the importance of ‘escalating’ non-violence, stressing the Palestinian example of the Centre for Rapprochement and its work in Beit Sahour near Bethlehem. Here again, the scalar perspective, the struggle against house demolition at a household scale as a matrix for societal change. Jalal Ghazi (2002) has observed that "using civil disobedience and not suicide bombs, a non-violent Palestinian struggle for freedom might reinvigorate the Israeli peace movement." Such traditions of non-violence, still marginalized, are exemplified in the work of Rapprochement in Beit Sahour, the International Solidarity Movement, Ta’ayush, Bat Shalom and other groups, including the new organization MEND (Middle East Nonviolence and Democracy, http://mend-pal.org), which is using techniques such as 'participatory video.' And Stop the Wall, mentioned above. They will need to become a more central tool for changing civil society, what Sonti (2002) calls a "non-violence non-cooperation movement" inside Palestinian society.
36. Fearing the Gandhian potential of Mubarak Awad’s (n.d) ideas, the Israeli authorities deported him years ago. Inside the Israeli ethnocracy, new forms of non-violent resistance on a massive scale can be applied by Israel’s Arab citizens here and now to press for full equality. This is a politics of the body at scales from the house and community to international issues such as refugee repatriation. The antipode to the body politics of the suicide-bomb 'martyrs.' The Zapatista EZNL has evolved into a peasant 'army of non-violence,' a prototype for struggle in what Subcomandante Marcos calls the 'Fourth World War' (Midnight Notes 2001).
37. However coopted by the System, islets of rapprochement in Israel like the Jewish-Arab Center for Peace at Givat Haviva (the education hub of the Kibbutz Artzi network), Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam and organizations of joint resistance to the Occupation such as Ta’ayush, Stop the Wall and Jewish-Arab initiatives like the Negev Coexistence Forum and the women's solidarity group Bat Shalom are harbingers of solidarity here and now. Such dynamic togetherness at micro-scales must be translated not only into simple concepts ordinary people can understand but enacted in authentic structures. It is crucial to multiply initiatives to bring together Jewish and Arab kids and youth, neighbors, and younger and older married couples. Paradigms exist, such as the Arab-Jewish Center for Equality, Empowerment and Cooperation in the Negev (http://www.nisped.org) or the work of the children's and youth center Netivei Ahava (Paths of Brotherhood), Jaffa. These are also the spaces where groups like One Struggle and future libertarian groups need to be pro-active.
38. The dynamism of that process will create three categories of places, Palestinian, Israeli-Jewish and hybrid 'neo-Canaanite' forms of fusion. A fresh emblem of that symbiosis is the joint Israeli/Palestinian musical group Zaman E-Salam (A Time of Peace), founded in 2003--symbolically on Spanish soil, the locus of Arab-Jewish synergism over five centuries--developing a fusion of Gypsy flamenco, Jewish and Arab riffs, and dedicated to ta'ayush through music. That fusion must be translated into a thousand other forms.
39. In beginning to think about overhauling the very engines of governmentality, intriguing within Halper’s (2003) recent endorsement of a bi-national democratic state is his insight that the "vitality of Israeli culture, society, polity and economy is no longer dependent upon a state structure … ‘Israeliness’ has reached a stage of maturity that it no longer needs the protection of a state and, indeed, is being held back by it." Though he does not speculate on alternatives to a conventional democratic-liberal polity. Rather, in his view, Jewish national identity does not require a separate state of its own, but only "a cultural space where it may develop and flourish." Alongside and in dynamic interaction with a Palestinian space. If Halper, who is ICAHD coordinator, is right, these places and their networks need not require a power geometry that we associate at a higher scalar level with the nation-state, but could be interlinked through 'confederation,' a structure central to the functioning of neighborhood assemblies, confederal councils, autonomous municipalities (Alliance 2002; Albert 2001; 2003).
Images courtesy of : www.stopthewall.org
IX What is to be Undone?
40. The appeal of Zapatismo’s answers in Chiapas for addressing problems in the El Sereno community in northeast Los Angeles can also be applied in Israel/Falastin (Flores 1999):
Finally there are no more illusions. Civil society is quickly becoming aware that it must do what governments have no will to do and no longer can. Out of the global political-economic ruins are being born several phoenix movements that offer liberating solutions of democratic autonomy, participatory democracy. These are proactive self-sustenance; movements aiming to rebuild society from the bottom up.
41. Palestinians and Israelis need a joint participatory economy. Part of that alternative ‘roadmap’ can be sparked by Parecon thinking (Albert 2003). Parecon is a blueprint of revitalized economy from the bottom up that upends received conceptions of social life and of the technocratic nation-state. Its concrete aims of a communal being-in-the world center on five principles: equity/ diversity/ solidarity/ self-management/ ecological balance (http://www.parecon.org). Shalom (2003) drafts what a pareconic polity might begin to look like (see also Albert 2001; Wetzel 2003; Burrows 2003). The model explores in detail the contours of another kind of more humane economy, developing new conceptions of just wages, transformed consumption, balanced job complexes, self-management, examining counter-arguments, even speculating on alternative institutions to the WTO and World Bank. Its scalar perspective ranges from the household to the globe, but is centered on neighborhoods and workplaces.
42. In transposing pareconic ideas, new mini-kibbutzim in Israel (Shalom 2002) could begin experimentation with pareconic principles and structures. Indeed, a few could become a microlab for such change, perhaps integrating Palestinians within the kibbutz community. Second, a series of texts is needed that can communicate participatory economics and its principles in simple language to Arab and Israeli Jewish youth. Fresh socialist thinking like this has to be made understandable to wider communities, Parecon pamphlets for the working masses. Third, initiatives can be set in motion toward a mini-think tank to explore its applications in Palestinian villages and towns, perhaps among Negev Bedouin, or in connection with the fresh Palestinian initiative for new directions in local government and community development, Ibn Khaldun, the new Arab Association for Research and Development. Michael (2001) outlines ideas for building Parecon transformation.
Autonarchy: an Indigenous Israeli Vision of e-democracy
43. On Israeli turf, pareconic modalities of direct democracy can be melded with Akiva Orr’s architectonic of an electronic ‘autonarchy’ of instant and permanent mass referendum by magnetic card and computer, the IT-wired polity and economy which anahnu nahlit (We Will Decide) has been espousing on a small scale in Israel (Orr 1997). Both Parecon and Orr project new forms of participation in civil society and economy. Redefining what giving ‘stakeholders’ a hands-on say in decisions that directly affect them can actually mean. Autonarchy principles as sketched by Orr can be experimented with hands-on in a variety of smaller ahahnu nahlit settings. Israelis can pioneer electronic-democratic decision-making in schools, perhaps larger kibbutzim. This is part of the emerging cyberscape, upending scalarity, that can become part of the infrastructure of libertarian social transformation (Ó Tuathail 1998: 26-27). Though it should always keep in mind the priority of face-to-face interaction (Esteva 2001).
Inclusive Direct Democracy/Social Ecology
44. Central to such new thinking on autonomy is the ‘libertarian municipalism’ (a.k.a. communalism) developed by Murray Bookchin and associates at the Institute for Social Ecology in Vermont (see http://www.social-ecology.org). Its distant goal is a Commune of communes that can replace the State and all its hierarchies, with "land and enterprises … placed increasingly in the custody of the community - more precisely, the custody of citizens in free assemblies and their deputies in confederal councils" (Bookchin 1991). Despite differences, ISE’s theory is conjunct with some of the concrete models being drafted inside Parecon. A pareconist analysis of Bookchin’s communalism is developed by Albert (2002), suggesting it is time for bridge-building. Parecon has evolved over two decades in almost total disjunction from strikingly parallel work at ISE. Social ecology, like Parecon, needs an analogous infrastructure in Palestine on which to build, and could explore in new ways the entire question of water, its politics and allocation. Indeed, the struggle over water, its geopolitics at microlevels, fuels settlement policy in the West Bank and Gaza. Rachel Corrie, the International Solidarity Movement activist crushed by a bulldozer in the spring of 2003 protecting a Palestinian household in Rafah refugee camp, may have been intentionally targeted because of what she was unearthing about aquifers and wells in Gaza (Klein 2003). Her death again exemplifies the scalarities I emphasize here.
What If? An Agenda for New Community
45. Jared James’ strategies for ‘getting free’ require generating a scalar geometry of people’s initiatives: neighborhood associations, employees’ associations, coop housing associations, meeting halls for ‘people’s assemblies,’ peer circles, more worker-owned enterprises, locally controlled radio and TV stations, alternative schools and new forms of home schooling. James (2000) elaborates a vision of what such neighborhood and employees’ associations could do. And asks:
What if the 15,000 towns in the United States with 2,500 inhabitants or less started switching to direct democracy, through neighborhood assemblies, scuttling their hierarchical mayoral governments, something they could easily do if they wanted to? … What if workers in stores, offices, and factories forgot about unions and started setting up workplace assemblies to get control over their lives there? What if neighbors on a block started combining resources to create households of 100 to 200 persons?
The notion of a household of 200 is not unlike some conceptions of the urban commune or irbutz, part of communitarian experimentalism over several decades.
46. In what ways can this be advanced in Israel and Palestine? Integral to anti-authoritarian movements is a ‘prefigurative’ politics: building the future in the present, as in strategies outlined by James, autonomous neighborhoods, governed by direct-democracy Household and Home Assemblies, the incubators of the new society. Zapatismo in Chiapas now has some 1,200 ‘autonomous’ communities, organized into 50 autonomous municipalities and six autonomous regions. 'Autonomous' Marxism looks to "guaranteed equalitarian incomes, the reconstruction of a participatory civil society outside the state, the building of networks of localized, user-run social services, radical innovation and rearrangement of the working day, and the passage of production into communal, cooperative forms" (Dyer-Witherford 1994).
47. In rural Palestinian space inside Israel, the alternative village councils the Association of Forty has helped to construct in ‘unrecognized’ Arab villages inside Israel can be prefigurative of local regeneration of popular control (http://www.assoc40.org). Despite their capitalist structure, colonial mentality and exclusive demographics, even some of the agricultural settlements built up in Israel over the past 80 years could be transformed into incubators for change. By dint of size, the kibbutzim and moshavim can be targeted as potential foci for new forms of direct democracy and experimentation with Home Assemblies as ever more Israelis seek to reestablish control of their civil society at a scale of local community.
X Stage Two: Toward the Unitary State and Beyond
48. The single unitary state. Its make-up and structure, whether ‘bi-national’ or ‘democratic-secular,’ is a central question that can only be resolved as the dialectic of transformation evolves (Karmi 2002). The interim goal could be a confederal unitary multicultural polity, still largely along the lines of the neoliberal capitalist state. But already pocketed by mosaic residential and other ventures. In that crucible for change, Arabs and Jews can test structures for building a radically inclusive social and economic order based on communalist economic and social principles, moving toward a cooperative commonwealth or something analogue. Not just the "emergence, among Jews and Arabs alike, of a new political class," as Judt (2002) projects, but a new inclusive democratic consciousness. And anti-authoritarian networking at multiple scales.
Right of Palestinian Return
49. The Right of Return must be acknowledged as a principle at Stage One, realizable in mounting numbers congruent with the emergence of the longer-term goal of a unitary state based on ever greater symbiosis and solidarity. Indeed, only in such a unitary state does sufficient space for social-geographical reconfiguration become available. Once a common structure is reached in Stage Two, as attitudes change and ta’ayush builds, displaced Palestinians could return in sizable numbers to a Palestinian geography grounded on an increasingly empowered multitude of ever more mixed communities - especially in the south of Palestine. This return will become the major demographic challenge to creating a new Solidarity State (Paulo Freire), its litmus test of democratic probity (see the intriguing debate on this, Abu Sitta and Lerner, 2003). The returnees, long oppressed, will be open to the experimental praxis of a new economy and society. The epitome of gross disempowerment at every scale, including the household, over several generations, they are a natural constituency for fresh departures.
One Eutopic Paradigm: A People’s Negev
50. In mid-2003, the Sharon government and World Zionist Organization announced an extensive new plan to establish 14 new Jewish towns across the northern Negev, and to relocate the 75,000 Bedouin living in ‘unrecognized villages’ (some 45 villages and 72 smaller settlements) into ten ‘concentration villages’ (mini-reservations), expropriating all remaining Bedou-claimed land (Cook 2003). Sharon has also mooted plans about offering to relocate West Bank settlers in these new Negev towns to help further 'Judaize' and revitalize the northern Negev, a lingering 'periphery' in the Israeli state. The largest of these unrecognized Bedou villages, Bir Hadaj, is an isolated downtrodden settlement of some 4,000, without even a school (see Arab Human Rights Association 2003). There are now seven ‘recognized’ Bedou villages in the Negev, the most destitute municipalities in the state, with a population of about 75,000. The devastating neglect of the 'Arab sector' inside Israel is well documented (Swirski and Konor-Attias 2002). The fourteen localities with the highest unemployment rate are all Arab (Arab Human Rights Association 2002).
51. Within a concerted plan of counter-development, the unrecognized Bedouin settlements, now without power, water, sanitation, roads or land and building rights, under the boot of the Ministry of Agriculture Green Patrol militia, could become the nuclei for a polygon of new rural centers. These would stretch down to Mitzpeh Ramon in the central Negev on land vacated by the dismantled military, which now uses much of southern Israel as its training ground. Indeed, liberating the desert from the stranglehold of the army is a top priority in a politics of land renewal.
52. The Bedouin city of Rahat, 20 km north of Beersheva - a kind of ‘concentration town’ of 36,000 with the lowest social indicators of any city in Israel, 50% of its population below the poverty line, remains a casebook example of how an ethnocratic state can neglect an Arab urban center it itself engineered. Rahat is the Negev's 'second city,' yet not even accessible from the main highway going down to Beersheva, with the sixth highest unemployment rate in Israel. Rahat could become the hub of a double helix of new mixed towns and cooperative communes cum high tech, a dynamic networking extending on up to the "Palestinian-Jewish city between Hebron and Gaza" that Haim Hanegbi envisions. Recent reports from the Center for Bedouin Studies at the University of the Negev also envision revitalized development and various forms of Jewish-Bedou cooperation in infrastructure, economic development and other areas, including a community college in Rahat (Abu-Saad and Lithwick 2000).
53. Within a decade, this revitalized ‘mosaic’ Negev could be a core for refugee resettlement. Of course, Palestinians will have to learn to be agriculturists again, if they so choose, as they return to these new places in their old land, girded with new methods and technologies. It could also be applied for integration of Palestinian refugees into an altered Negev economy.
54. Al-Naqab can become a showcase for reimagining Arab-Jewish rapprochement and solidarity, as already concretized by the work of the Negev Coexistence Forum (Dukium). The arch-Zionist dream of Ben-Gurion to ‘make the desert bloom’ here transformed in an Arab-Jewish symbiosis for desert development. Symbolic of that new era could be the official shutdown of the atomic reactor near Dimona and the disposal of its nuclear arsenal. Here was the core of Nabatea, the ancient culture that thrived for centuries in the Negev desert, in part the forebears of the present-day Bedouin. Their extraordinary example, much researched (Qumsiyeh 2002), could become the historic emblem of a ‘neo-Nabatean’ revitalization of the north-central Negev, which might bridge to Petra in Jordan, the principal Nabatean site. In that dialectic of renewal, ‘development towns’ with a largely working-class, disadvantaged Oriental Jewish population, such as Ofakim northwest of Beersheva and Dimona and Yerucham to its southeast (with the highest unemployment of all Jewish localities in Israel, see Arab Human Rights Association 2002), could be brought into the core of a decentralized egalitarian economy as the 'periphery' is literally dismantled.
A Hybridized Landscape of Progressive Place
55. In the Galilee/al-Jaliil, Nazareth Metro could become a major Arab-Jewish center, instead of the tale of two estranged cities - Arab An-Naasirah and Jewish Natsrat Ilit (Upper Nazareth) - it is today. Poet Mahmoud Darwish’s village al-Barawi, a pile of deserted stone, could be rebuilt, with an Arab college established in the name of Palestine’s most distinguished poet. Funds from the Arab world, now blocked, could begin to flow into al-Jaliil. Located nearby a new metropolis, the "super-modern city in Galilee for the 200,000 or 300,000 refugees in Lebanon" that Haim Hanegbi visions. This would be part of a progressive dynamic to dismantle the ‘Judaizing’ of the Galilee, Israeli state policy for half a century (Falah 1993), within a joint project in social and economic renewal.
56. Jerusalem could become the model matrix for an inventive 'libertarian municipalism' (Bookchin 1991) shaped in part by social ecological models, experimenting with new topographies of solidarity. A spatial conundrum, it cannot be 'repartitioned' into two capitals for two states. Its only future lies in profound social transformation, itself a municipal confederation that is a node in a broader confederation of municipalities--a microcosm of the cooperative decentralized commonwealth envisioned, where a capital city exercises far fewer higher-scale political and economic functions, especially in an increasingly more cybernetic network of decision-making. Under confederal structures, control of 'holy sites' will involve a condominium structure for al-Aqsa/Western Wall, predicated on mutual trust. Sacred space will no longer be a site for hegemony and its contestation. Though its scale is likewise micro, its geopolitics in this struggle have been global, across the Muslim and Jewish world.
57. Eventually perhaps Jews of good conscience could build a life in mixed integrated communities beyond dismantled green lines and apartheid fences, on the West Bank, even in a transfigured Gaza. If ways can be found to redistribute power in a social space beyond border-fixations and grounded on radical equity and sharing, even that is feasible. Perhaps, as Hanegbi dreams, Jews could settle elsewhere again across the Arab world. Even in Syria, once the Golan is returned (see also Sonti 2002).
XI Here and Now: Maspik/Khalas!
58. In laying the groundwork now for a political practice leading to direct democracy and communalism, a hundred flowers can bloom in this pluralistic imaginary--its very eclecticism a necessary amplitude at this juncture, as the manifesto of One Struggle stresses. Collectives beginning to crystallize around opposition to the Apartheid Wall can with input evolve in the Zapatista spirit of the Ya basta! (Enough is Enough!) movements in Italy and New York. Termed perhaps in Hebrew & Arabic Maspik/Khalas! They could establish a network of ateneos (self-managed social, cultural and educational centers) to raise, defend and promote libertarian ideas for change. Remembering that organization grows out of struggle, not vice versa. More study groups for social libertarian theory and practice need to be established now, and an array of literature translated into Arabic and Hebrew, including simple versions that kids and working folk can understand (Bookchin 1999: 333). Needed now is a libertarian socialist periodical in Hebrew and Arabic, online and in print, like Slingshot (http://slingshot.tao.ca/index.php), a paradigm for a sustained libertarian voice. None exists. One prototype for a people's medium is the 'comic book' on people's geography being prepared by the People's Geography Project in the U.S. (http://www.peoplesgeography.org), it could be translated and adapted for praxis in Israel/Palestine. Voices like Ilan Shalif and Eyal Rozenberg already have a presence in libertarian cyberspace in Israel (see http://www.shalif.com/anarchy and Eyal’s Radical Corner, http://www.earendil.ath.cx/radical/zionism.html). A ParEcon/Palestine site in Arabic and Hebrew similar to the ParEcon Italy site needs to be set up.
59. In building ta'ayush through education, there is a need to press for vigorous study of Arabic in the Israeli Jewish schools, to complement the huge energy and capital invested in teaching English. Special Jewish-Arab interaction centers and projects - among children, teens, neighbors, young and older couples - should be created now. Necessary is a non-violent confrontational movement to have the mosque in Beersheva/Bi'r As-Sab', the largest in Israel south of Tel Aviv and soon a century old, restored to the al-Naqab Bedouin. It is presently used in desecration as a museum for the Jewish-Zionist history of Negev settlement, a grotesque quasi-emblem of the apartheid state. The Ben-Gurion University of the Negev could be simply renamed the University of the Negev, a gesture of dukium/ta'ayush its faculty could decide on now.
60. Palestinians can link with libertarian-socialist activists in the Arab world such as Sameh Saeed Aboud in Egypt, his essays accessible online, and virtually unknown in Palestine. In Lebanon, Al Abdil is projecting libertarian change. One Struggle (with less stress on animal rights) can serve as a prototype for a social anarchist presence inside the Palestinian left, perhaps evolving out of the initiatives there for non-violence. In late 2003, the group organized a longer-term Jewish-Arab solidarity camp at Deir Balut village to assist Palestinian villagers in their daily struggle to survive: http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article2304.shtml
Israelis and Palestinians can also look to new ideas for direct democracy in the World Social Forum: http://stopthewall.org/worldwideactivism/235.shtml
and Peoples’ Global Action: http://www.agp.org, already represented in Israel. And connect with the European Consulta and its work in building spaces of anti-Power http://www.europeanconsulta.org.
XII Regional Matrix for Change?
61. Whether a 'regional socialist union' as envisioned by Machover, Da'am and other Marxist currents can evolve in West Asia is dependent on developments in global and regional geopolitics and local transformations. It should not be made a kind of framing precondition for change in Palestine. Stress here remains on lower grassroots scales. The 'nested confederation' model presupposes a grassroots localized dynamism: "we envision such decentralized confederations on the regional, continental, and even global levels" (Alliance 2002). Though developments in Palestine/Israel will catalyze processes in Jordan, Syria and Lebanon, each of these is a separate chapter in an ensemble. Opening up a libertarian space in Yarmouk in Jordan, perhaps initially among the large number of Palestinian students in that university center, and Palestinian refugee communities more broadly in northern Jordan, might be an ambit for initiating the specific dynamic there. The Palestinian diaspora, radicalized by the ordeal of a half century of extreme life on the margin, can help radiate energy for grassroots change as Palestine itself is reconstructed.
62. In the best-case scenario, such an Israeli-Palestinian confederation - the 'Jerusalem Cooperative Commonwealth' - would serve as a model for viable transformation elsewhere, forming a node in a network of counter-spaces that will emerge over the next half century to challenge the present capitalist world-system. A system which, in Wallerstein's (1998, chap. 2) diagnosis, is entering terminal crisis, unsustainable socially and environmentally, the most non-egalitarian order in world history. In the period of transition from the collapsed capitalist world-system to another world-system Wallerstein foresees, there
will also be a period in which the "free will" factor will be at its maximum, meaning that individual and collective action can have a greater impact on the future structuring of the world than such action can have in more 'normal' times, that is, during the ongoing life of an historical system (ibid.).
XIII A Hermeneutics of Radical Retrieval
63. There is need to reconnect to founding moments, as in Zapatismo: to retrieve elements of the libertarian heritage of Jewish settlement in Palestine, in some ways a kind of de-Zionizing reassessment of earlier strands. That would include the communalism behind the earliest co-operative agricultural Jewish kvutsot (proto-kibbutzim) in Palestine, whatever its inherent colonialism. Yaacov Oved has pointed to the strong influence of Kropotkin on Haim Arlozoroff, a major figure in early labor Zionism, Yitzhak Tabenkin, mentor of the United Kibbutz movement, and various strands inside the Zionist workers' movements in the 1920s (Oved 2000). Also worth reevaluation are the Tolstoyan-communalist facets of Aaron David Gordon, the key figure behind the first Jewish agricultural 'colony' (kvutza Degania) in Palestine, his strong nationalism notwithstanding. The 'father of the kibbutz' was the staunchest pacifist among leaders in the pre-state Jewish Yishuv, a radicalism now forgotten (Gordon 1938).
Aufruf zum Sozialismus
64. Relevant ideas from Martin Buber’s pre-state Brit Shalom (Peace Alliance) and post-independence party Ihud (Union) can be reexamined, separating the Zionist-nationalist dross. The recently (re)established Brit Shalom/Tahalof Essalam, in part in the spirit of the old organization, is still little active except in cyberspace (www.britshalom.org). Buber's communalist political thought was significantly shaped by his mentor Gustav Landauer, the social-anarchist thinker who led the abortive Munich Council Republic in 1919, murdered in its quelling. In his eulogy, Buber called Landauer the "secret spiritus rector" and "designated leader of the new Judaism" (Oved 2000; Buber 1958, 46-57). Y. Goren and Haim Seeligman (1997) have recently stressed Landauer as a potential source for renewal of utopian thought within Israeli society.
65. Kibbutz thinkers such as Giora Manor (1992) and Muki Tsur (1998) suggest the importance of looking again at anarchist theory and the kibbutz. In its social morphology, Kibbutz Samar north of Eilat, with 70 members, is in significant ways internally an anarcho-communalist mini-model, whatever its external entrepreneurialism in the Israeli economy (Liskin 2000). There is today a wave of experimentation across Israel in new forms of ‘communal’ living, and even new more libertarian-oriented mini-communities, such as Kibbutz Pelech in Galilee, opening up new places for seeding autonomy (Shalom 2002). This is anti-authoritarian space at very primal scales of household and micro-community.
XIV "I am never finished with emptying myself of myself" (Levinas 1989: 182)
66. All this requires oxygen and grassroots experimental praxis. The mindsets on both sides of the divide have been ossified by fire, critical space withered. A landscape of 'progressive places' and transformative practice must be generated to capture the imagination of both peoples. Bookchin gave the impasse in Palestine - and the world-system crisis - a classic motto: "Be realistic and do the impossible, because if we don't do the impossible, we face the unthinkable."
Bill Templer is a Chicago-born Israeli with research interests in critical applied linguistics and social anarchist theory. He worked many years with the Bedouin Rights Association in southern Israel, the Galilee Research Center in Nazareth, and in the Roma civil rights movement in eastern Bulgaria. A widely published translator from German and Hebrew, he is on the staff of the Dubnow Institute for Jewish History and Culture at the University of Leipzig, and is currently based in Vientiane, Lao PDR.
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© borderlands ejournal 2003