The Red-Brown “zombie plague” PART ONE

 

 

The Red-Brown “zombie plague”: how fascist ideas are becoming popular on the Left – PART ONE

By DAPHNE LAWLESS

 

is this marxist

This is part one of three of a major article to appear in Fightback’s June issue on Fascism and Anti-Fascism. Please contact fightback.australasia@gmail.com for subscription information.

Preface

This analysis follows on from that in three previous articles of mine which have previously appeared in Fightback publications:

The second and third articles are collected in our Fightback pamphlet What is Conservative Leftism?. In what follows, references to articles in that pamphlet will be cited with WiCL and the page number.

Introduction: Conspiracy theories and “pod people”

When I wrote “Against Conservative Leftism” just over two years ago, I considered it disturbing that socialists would rally to support New Zealand’s colonial-era flag. If I was disturbed then, there are no words left to describe how to feel in an era when committed revolutionary activists – people who have an honourable track record of struggle in favour of a classless society and against all oppression – are happy to argue that the recent chemical warfare attacks against rebel-held towns in Syria are a “false flag”, something faked by the US state or its allies to justify an invasion. Even one of my favourite musicians has recently repeated such baseless slander from the concert stage.

It’s a toss-up whether this version is more sickening than the alternative line, that the attacks were real but were carried out by the rebels themselves – that is, the rebels murdered their own children in order to manipulate foreign opinion. This is not the place to take these conspiracy theories to pieces – this has been admirably done already by many sources, for example Bellingcat or Snopes. The British ecosocialist writer George Monbiot also ably dismantled previous Syrian regime chemical warfare denial last year. The question – among others – that I wish to deal with here is of the similarity between this behaviour and the behaviour of the Right-wing conspiracy theorists who regularly yell FALSE FLAG to every mass killing in the United States – from the 9/11/2001 attacks in New York to the depressingly regular mass shootings in schools.

It’s common sense in liberal and Left circles that ideas like “9/11 Truth”, the theories that Barack Obama’s birth certificate was forged, or that the victims of the Sandy Hook or Parkland school shootings were “crisis actors”, are wild fantasies either made up by the bigoted and ill-informed to justify their prejudices, or else false narratives being deliberately fed to such people (for profit or political gain) by unscrupulous media operatives such as FOX News or Alex Jones’ InfoWars. We are appalled when parents of school shooting victims are harassed by unhinged strangers calling them conspiracy operatives and telling them that their dead children never existed.

And yet this is precisely what much of the Western Left has been doing to the people whose children died of chlorine poisoning in the basements of Douma, Syria. Experienced Western journalist Robert Fisk even took a trip to Douma – courtesy of the Syrian government – to find an anonymous doctor who would confirm such fantasies. This, while actual Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) inspectors were still barred from the site, so that the regime and its allies could make the evidence disappear.

The motivation is clear. “False flag” theories are based on the idea that elaborate lies are being told by a secret conspiracy to manipulate public opinion, and that mainstream sources are part of this conspiracy. Alex Jones claims that school shootings are arranged/faked by the US state (or a secret faction within it, known as the “Deep State”) to take away US citizens’ rights to bear arms. The Left argues the same about atrocities in Syria, only the goal of the conspirators is to build support for a “regime change” invasion of Syria. Similar stories are currently circulating on Leftist social media about the protests against social welfare cuts in Nicaragua, and their murderous suppression by that country’s government (search “Nicaragua CIA” on Twitter). The far-Right and the Left end up with the same narrative – there is a conspiracy within the current US State to fake atrocities and protest movements so as to expand its influence, which must be pushed back. In fact, American fascists are just as keen as any on the US Left to deny chemical attacks in Syria – the Snopes article cited above reproduces a tweet from alt-right celebrity and star of the famous “punch in the face” video, Richard Spencer, doing just that.

The question is not whether states have ever faked attacks to justify interventions (there is evidence that the US intervention in Vietnam began with one. The question is the willingness of the Left to act like FOX News or InfoWars followers, to use the logical fallacy known as the “argument from consequences” to deny inconvenient facts and reporting. The fallacy goes like this: if X is true, it would lead to political consequences I oppose; therefore, X cannot be true. And any evidence that X is true is, as Donald Trump would put it, “FAKE NEWS”. If all we wish to do is to oppose US intervention in the Syrian war (ignoring for the moment that the US has been involved in the Syrian war since 2014, launching over 1000 air strikes against the “Islamic State” group), then denying the Assad regime’s chemical warfare atrocities is simply not necessary. All we have to do is argue that US attacks on the Assad regime would not prevent such atrocities, or otherwise make things worse.

Robin Yassin-Kassab, co-author of the essential text on the Syrian conflict Burning Country, recently discussed his run-ins with Western activists bending his ear about how “the Rothschilds” or “pipelines” were the secret behind all Middle-Eastern conflicts, and commented:

Arabs and Muslims are notoriously vulnerable to conspiratorial thinking, in part because in a previous generation so much politics was actually done by conspiracy, and in part through intellectual laziness. It’s always been simpler to blame ‘the Jews’ or ‘the Shia’ for all ills than to actually address the ills. But not really simpler. Conspiracy theories don’t merely promote complacent inaction, they create new tragedies too. In north western Pakistan, for instance, where word spread that the polio inoculation was a UN poison to render Muslims infertile, a new generation has been stunted by the disease.

Perhaps there’s more excuse for conspiracism in regions where the people are subject to the traumas of poverty, dictatorship and war. If so, its increasing prevalence in the educated, prosperous West is more difficult to explain.

So, what is behind the enthusiasm of the Western activist Left for these denialist narratives? The argument that I wish to make in this article is as follows:

  1. the growing willingness of Left activists to believe ideologically-convenient conspiracy theory over well-supported reporting is part of a growing convergence of Leftist and farright rhetoric, in particular around the ongoing war in Syria. While – with some exceptions to be discussed – Leftists do not openly or consciously align themselves with fascists, many increasingly accept ideas that are disquietingly close to fascist narratives. The idea of a politics which unifies Leftists and fascists has historically been known by many names, including Strasserism, Third Position or Querfront (German for “cross-front”). In this article I will use the well-established term redbrown; brown taken from the Nazi “brownshirts” (stormtroopers).
  2. This “Red-Brown” convergence is based on a political misrecognition of neoliberal globalism as a conspiracy of the US and other Western countries for global domination, rather than a strategy adopted by the global capitalist class as a whole. This has led the Left into an “anti-imperialism” which is in fact nationalism under another name; which leads to programmatic unity with fascists who support authoritarian “ethno-states”.
  3. This is a problem which cuts across the “revolutionary/reformist” division on the Left. A strong base of this thinking is found in the revitalised “Marxist-Leninist” (ML) trend on the Internet, but the acceptance of nationalism, traditionalism and anti-rationalism which I have previously called “conservative leftism” has a long history in both the social-democratic and Communist traditions on the Left, including the support base of British Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.
  4. This convergence is encouraged by the propaganda/intelligence branches of the Russian state, for its own geopolitical reasons. But it is also perpetuated by an unwillingness for socialists (who have lived through decades of isolations) to struggle among themselves over political line; or, worse, a more-or-less conscious rejection of international solidarity in favour of keeping the biggest “broad front” at home. Finally, there is a small contingent of people associated with the Left who have discarded anti-fascist principle and now actively support a Querfront (with the Russian state, the US “alt-right” and even the Trump administration) against neoliberal globalism. While this explicit alliance makes up a minority of the left, it must be actively fought.’

Some Leftists on social media have expressed their bemusement at their erstwhile comrades coming out with conspiracy theories in support of the brutal authoritarian regime in Syria. Some have jokingly used the term “pod people” – an image taken from the old horror film Invasion of the Body Snatchers, where people are replaced by clones grown in pods by alien invaders. I prefer to use another science-fiction trope – that of a “zombie plague”. As I see it, Red-Brown politics is the intellectual equivalent of an infectious disease that has taken hold in a lot of the Left and led to a lot of good comrades taking up positions which have led to them supporting fascist positions. I continue to believe that there is a “cure” for this plague, that good activists can be won back from such positions, and that articles such as this one may play a part in doing so.

Class politics or geopolitics? – against “alt-imperialism”

In a piece from August last year, British-Pakistani academic and journalist Idrees Ahmed ably summed up what he calls as the “alt-left” trend in Western politics. His article is worth reading in full if you’re not already aware of the situation () but here are some salient extracts:

…a strain of leftism that sees liberalism rather than fascism as the main enemy. It is distinguished mainly by a reactionary contrarianism, a seething ressentiment, and a conspiracist worldview.

In its preoccupations it is closer to the right: More alarmed by Hillary Clinton winning the primary than by Donald Trump winning the presidency; more concerned with imagined “deep state” conspiracies than with actual Russian subversion of US democracy; eager to prevent a global war no one is contemplating but supportive of a US alliance with Russia for a new “war on terror”.

Like the right it disdains “globalists”, it sees internationalism as liberal frivolity, and its solidarity is confined to repressive regimes overseas….

For the alt-left, Hillary Clinton’s call for a no-fly zone to protect Syria’s civilians was proof that she wanted a global war. Donald Trump on the other hand was going to protect America from WWIII because of his “non-interventionist mindset” (Glenn Greenwald).

Jill Stein and Susan Sarandon both insisted that Trump was “the lesser evil”. Even his bombings were “consistent with the particular ‘non-interventionist’ outlook” (Greenwald & Tracey).

These arguments turned out to be convincing to a small but significant minority of the US voting population – which was enough to set us down the path we are on now. The 10% of people who voted for Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primary who went on to vote for Trump in the general election may well have tipped the balance.

As suggested above, I do not believe that this kind of politics is becoming more and more prevalent because of a conscious softening to fascism (in the majority of cases). In part, it is an outcome of the developing logic of the “conservative leftist” arguments which I have argued have become hegemonic on the Western Left – arguments based on nationalism, traditionalism and anti-rationalism. But more recently, these ideas have been assiduously propagated by extremely well-resourced media networks (both state-directed and corporate), which has led even staunch anti-fascists to adopt positions and arguments which agree with fascist principles.

The most pressing issue, as I see it, is that a sizeable part (perhaps a majority) of liberal and Left opinion in the West has adopted a one-sided view of imperialism, which has more to do with fascist ideas than the socialist tradition. In Vladimir Lenin’s classic analysis, made against other socialists who thought that capitalist globalisation would lead to world peace, imperialism is “the most recent phase (also translated “highest stage”) of capitalism” Against Karl Kautsky, who believed that capitalist globalisation might lead to an end to war, Lenin argued that the international expansion of capitalist firms and their fusion with state power would inevitably lead to military rivalries for markets and resources.

However, it seems much of the Left has (openly or quietly) has instead adopted an idea that “imperialism” only applies to the United States, or the group of advanced capitalist countries of which the US is generally seen to be the leader. States like Russia or China, by this analysis, cannot be imperialist by definition. And as neoliberal globalisation is seen as only the latest ploy by US-centric imperialism to achieve global domination, neoliberalism, globalisation/“globalism”, imperialism and “Western” power are all collapsed into meaning the same thing. This conspiratorial analysis of neoliberal globalism views the phenomenon as a ploy of one state, faction of states, or actors within a state to gain global domination. On the contrary, a systematic analysis of neoliberal globalism, following on from Lenin’s, reads neoliberalism and globalization a reaction of the global capitalist system as a whole to expand its profits. The latter points towards global solidarity of the oppressed; the former puts the Left in the same camp as fascists. (I will discuss what I see as the intellectual origins of this interpretation of “imperialism” on the Left later on in this article.)

The most obvious “outbreak” of this Red-Brown zombie plague is the debate on the ongoing conflict in Syria. Since the foreign policy of the US state under President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (the high point of neoliberalism to date) was to confront Russian expansion and give support (if half-heartedly) to the “Arab Spring” liberation movements, then these movements have become seen as enemies (“US proxies” and/or “terrorists”) by many Leftists. To be blunt, for much of the “anti-imperialist Left”, for Bashar al-Assad to gas children to death in a basement is preferable than for the United States or other Western countries to interfere with this in any way. But Russian or Iranian interference to support Assad is not a problem worth talking about, let alone demonstrating about. In this, the “alt-imperialist” Left is precisely mimicking the arguments of the fascist Right – as seen when fascists march alongside Left anti-imperialists against Western intervention in Syria, both carrying pictures of Assad and Putin.

In what follows, I wish to take a deep dive into a couple of articles from Leftists – not among those consciously supporting the Assad regime or Russian foreign policy, but what are on the surface “anti-fascist” articles repeating as common sense the very ideas that have allowed fascist activists to walk hand-in-hand with anti-imperialist Leftists on the Syria issue.

My first example is respected US Marxist John Bellamy Foster. In the middle of a generally excellent article arguing that the Trump administration is indeed neo-fascist, the author gives the following summary of US foreign policy over the last decade:

The push of NATO into the Ukraine, supporting a right-wing coup in the attempt to check Russia as a reemerging superpower, led to a Russian pushback under Vladimir Putin, with the annexation of the Crimea and intervention in the Ukraine along its borders. Russia further responded by aggressively intervening in Syria, undermining the attempt by the United States, NATO and Saudi Arabia to bring down the Assad regime by supporting surrogate pro-Salafist forces (committed to the creation of a fundamentalist Sunni state) … The main part of the ruling class and the national security state was strongly committed to a new Cold War with Russia, with Hillary Clinton vowing to introduce no-fly zones in Syria, which would have meant shooting down Russian as well as Syrian planes, bringing the world to the brink of global thermonuclear war. (emphases added)

The talking points emphasised above – that the overthrow of Viktor Yanukovych’s government by the “Euromaidan” movement in Ukraine in 2014 was a “right wing coup”; that the Syrian rebels are “pro-Salafist… fundamentalist Sunni”, and that a pushback against Russian support for the Assad regime would risk “thermonuclear war” – could have come straight from a Russian Embassy press release. A cursory Google search will show that they are at best misleading half-truths and at worst nothing but Russian propaganda. To give an obvious illustration, Turkish forces shot down a Russian plane over Syria in 2015 – and Donald Trump conducted missile strikes against Assad regime targets in April 2017 and in April 2018. Yet, curiously, thermonuclear war hasn’t broken out yet.

Similarly, Australian anarchist academic Ben Debney approvingly quotes Gary Leupp writing on the website Counterpunch, a website which has been a source for a lot of Assadist propaganda over the last five years, that among good reasons not to support Hillary Clinton over Trump were:

various U.S. interventions during the “Arab Spring;” the U.S./NATO assault on Libya that destroyed that modern state, etc. (emphasis added)

Debney goes on to argue that “the fifty-three percent of white females who voted for [Trump] might have felt that having a woman president of the order of a Neocon [neo-conservative] by Any Other Name wasn’t the most liberating option on the table for women”. Similarly, Bellamy Foster argues that the Obama/Clinton pushback on Russia led to a pro-Russian split in the ruling class, whose interests are expressed through Donald Trump.

The argument that both writers are making is that the rise of Trumpist neofascism, or protofascism, was in part fuelled by the neoliberals’ “hawkish” foreign policy. By this, they mean supporting the insurgency which brought down Muammar Qadhafi’s dictatorial, murderous “modern state” in Syria; supporting certain rebel forces in Syria (some of whom but not all could be described as Islamist or “Salafist” [i]); or pushing against Russian interests in Eastern Europe.

Worse yet, Trump is sometimes even seen as a lesser evil – not because he is any less militaristic than Obama or the Clintons, but because he is on the same side as Russia. Every bomb dropped on “Islamic State” targets such as Raqqa is fine by Leftists who are only concerned about whether Russia supports such mayhem or not (and it does). One particularly confused American Marxist-Leninist organisation put it like this:

… a Clinton presidency would have been more dangerous for the international working class and the oppressed peoples of the world… A President Clinton could have led in short order to a major war between Russia and the USA… (Ray O’Light Newsletter, November-December 2016, p. 4).

Fascism as a lesser evil to confrontation with Russia? Firstly, as American journalist Charles Davis has written on several occasions (for example), Trump’s foreign policy was openly more militaristic than Clinton’s. He actually promised before the election to expand the existing US/allied bombing campaign against “Islamic State” targets in Syria. No-one who had a principled position against US military interventions could have supported Trump over Clinton. But it was certainly possible if you supported Russian policy in, for example, Ukraine and Syria, and wanted the US to fall in line with that policy.

Curiously absent, too, from these criticisms of neoliberal “hawkery” is any concern with the interests and agency of the people of the territories concerned themselves. NATO intervened to support an uprising against Qadhafi; but why was there an uprising? Why would Syrians form armed factions, even ones with a conservative “Salafist” programme, in opposition to their regime? Why would many Ukrainians support parties seeking to join the NATO imperialist alliance as a “lesser evil” to domination by Russian interests? Surely that’s the first thing that socialists or anarchists, devoted to radical democracy from below, should be asking? (I will return to this “Orientalist” view of the Middle East later.)

Writing 20 years ago, the late American socialist academic Moishe Postone set out the argument against this kind of politics:

What the Cold War seems to have eradicated from memory … is that opposition to an imperial power is not necessarily progressive, that there were fascist “anti-imperialisms” as well. This distinction was blurred during the Cold War in part because the USSR aligned itself with authoritarian regimes, for example, in the Middle East, that had little in common with socialist and communist movements, that, if anything, had more in common with fascism than communism and that, in fact, sought to liquidate their own Left. Consequently, anti-Americanism per se became coded as progressive, although there had and have been deeply reactionary as well as progressive forms of anti-Americanism.

Examples of pre-Cold War “fascist anti-imperialism” could be Imperial Japan’s appeal against British and French imperialism to justify its expansion into east Asia, or Lehi, the Zionist paramilitary group in British-ruled Palestine who were explicitly fascist at some stages and Red-Brown at others.

What Postone is calling out here is what I have previously called out as “campism”, but which could also be called RedBrown antiimperialism – or even, on the model of Idrees Ahmed’s “alt-leftism”, altimperialism. This is the politics where imperialism is seen only as coming from one country, or one alliance of countries, and is contrasted to the “national sovereignty” of various regimes – no matter how autocratic, rather than in favour of the self-determination and autonomy of peoples. Lebanese journalist Joey Hussein Ayoub has given the name “essentialist anti-imperialism” to the same phenomenon: “defined solely in relation to [one’s] own governments rather than on the basis of a universal opposition to all forms of imperialism.”

Amar Diwarkar argues that this is not so much a conscious embrace of Fascist politics, but:

a tactical tolerance of the far-right’s nativist anti-establishment logic to accelerate the dissolution of the ruling order and bring about a transitional phase preceding social transformation. However, by eliminating the dimension of the international from its purview, what remains is a strikingly non-radical relativism. Its underlying logic is one that is infused with a colonial unconscious; a conviction that Western agency is the eternal subject and locus of motion – the prime mover of History.

Thus, although Debney is an anarchist who strongly criticises the Soviet state in Russia, his arguments about how “neoliberalism helped lead to Trump” are in fact in line with that very state-centric Cold War leftism which supported the USSR as the “lesser evil” against capitalist imperialism. Struggles of ordinary people in the Middle East and Eastern Europe are seen in this framework entirely through the lens of whether US “power” is extended thereby. The governments of Assad in Syria, Qadhafi in Libya or Yanukovych in Ukraine are not seen in relationship to the people over whom they claim authority, but whether they support or oppose the supposed designs of United States foreign policy. The argument is not over “militarism”, but of instinctive support for any state which is seen to oppose US foreign policy – and if they are supported by Russian foreign policy, so much the better.

Bellamy Foster and Debney demonstrate that even those Leftists who recognize the warning signs of fascism in his “base” see Trump as a possible counter-balance to those parts of the US federal government who supposedly plot global domination via neoliberal globalization. In another recent example of this, Senator Bernie Sanders, the great “left-wing” hope in the 2016 election against Clintonite neoliberalism, expressed qualified support for Trump’s protectionist economics. Whether the bad guys are called the “military-industrial complex” or “the Deep State”, the argument is precisely the same as that offered by those Rightists who admit Trump’s failings but see him as an “anti-politician” going into Washington to “combat the elites” and “drain the swamp”.

Bellamy Foster and Debney both make arguments that, in one way or another, “neoliberals did it to themselves”. This also mirrors an argument made by pro-Trump and other far-right forces. The Rightist version of the argument is to point to any support for multiculturalism, feminism or queer/trans rights and say: “This is why people voted for Trump” (Google that phrase for examples). A subtler one – heard on the Left as well as the Right – is the rightly-mocked “economic anxiety” argument, that Trump voters were motivated by poverty and insecurity caused by neoliberal economics. All these narratives have the same ideological basis – to provide an alibi for Trump voters, to argue that Trump voters didntreallysupport their candidates stated xenophobic, militaristic platform and his misogynist behaviour.

The final word has to go to Ray OLight Newsletter, who agree with Debney and Bellamy Foster, in a simpler and more extreme form:

In our view, a fascist was elected U.S. president, but strong elements of fascism had already arrived here long before Trump’s election… with Trump as President, promoters of harmful illusions about Obama, Clinton and the Democrats… will be in a weaker position… It should not take too long before the white working masses who voted for Trump have had enough experience to begin a serious struggle against this reactionary billionaire. (November-December 2016, pp. 4-5).

In other words, the German Communists’ boast: after Hitler, us!, updated for a 21st century audience.

Thus we see parts of the Left reading the victories of the far Right as an obstacle to or “payback” for neoliberal globalist overreach – or performatively shrugging, on the grounds that nothing real has changed or even that opportunities are opening up for the Left. They share a belief that Western imperialism is the great threat to the world, rather than Russian or Chinese expansionism or smaller authoritarian states; they agree that democracy is not to be trusted if it might be exploited by Islamist movements. They are state-centric (even anarchists such as Debney, or Noam Chomsky) and prize “stability and order” against democracy and self-determination. Their main interest in the growth of far-Right and Fascism movements globally is to use it as a stick to beat neoliberalism with. It’s as if 1933 never happened.

Still to come: Vectors and Germs of the Red-Brown Virus


[i]                       “Salafist” or “Salafi” means a “fundamentalist” Muslim who wishes to return Islam to the practices of Prophet Muhammad and his Companions (salaf). However, in popular articles about the Middle East it is used generally a “snarl word”, meaning any devout Sunni Muslim of whom the author does not approve. Michael Muhammad Knight’s Why I Am A Salafi (2014) is a good introduction to these issues: see a review here.

 

 

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Syria Solidarity: National day of action 29th October

day-of-rage-for-aleppo

Civilians in Aleppo and across Syria are being intensively bombed by Russia with bunker bombs, phosphorous bombs, napalm, thermobaric and cluster bombs; and by the Syrian regime with chlorine containing barrel bombs; targetting homes, schools, hospitals, rescue teams, and underground shelters .

Like many Syrian cities, Aleppo has been under a starvation siege. The regime and Russian have even bombed the city’s water supply.
Despite these atrocious crimes against humanity, Aleppo’s people show tremendous solidarity and caring for each other, as they work to find the wounded under the rubble, and rush them to undergound clinics for treatment. Hundreds of democratically run community councils have been formed across Syria in the liberated areas. They have produced a tremendous amount of art, literature, music, and electronic media documenting the revolution and counter revolution in Syria.

The “peace” talks have broken down. It is clear that Russia and the Assad regime are looking for a military solution to enable the genocidal Assad regime to continue in power.

Most of the fighters killing Syrian civilians are not Syrians. They include soliders from Afghanistan, Lebanon, Iran and Iraq, many of them conscripted or desperately poor with no other options for a living.
The Assad regime and Russia have killed half a million Syrian people. The genocide has to stop! The regime regularly uses rape and torture as weapons.

The war started because people across Syria went onto the streets to demand democracy, and instead were shot, rounded up, tortured, raped and killed. So the people took up arms to defend themselves. The Assad regime has vowed to continue to obliterate the population until it accepts his rule.

Both the United States and Russia have re-defined the people’s struggle for democracy as a “war on terror” and are both responsible for killing civilians.

Isis grew in Syria with the encouragement of the Assad regime. Assad deliberately released extremists from his jails, who went on to join Isis in Syria. The regime leaves Isis alone, and Isis is continually attacking the democratic opposition groups. The democratic opposition has been forced to fight on two fronts, against the attacks from the regime and from Isis. Despite the evils perpetrated by Isis, it has killed a fraction of the number of people, that the Assad regime has. The Assad regime with its Russian and Iranian allies are the greater evil.

Stop the bombing! Troops out!
No more genocide! Solidarity with the Syrian Revolution!
Victory for Syrian people now!

Wellington action:
2-3pm 29th October, Russian Embassy, 57 Messines Road, Karori
[Facebook event]

Auckland action:
2-3pm 29th October, Aotea Square
[Facebook event]

Hone Harawira: Burning the flag or accepting the evil

US Israeli flag burnt

Burning the Israeli flag in Auckland in protest over the murder of innocent civilians in Gaza is nothing to be ashamed of” said MANA Leader and Tai Tokerau MP, Hone Harawira. “Calling for both sides to stand down when one side is annihilating the other though, IS something to be ashamed of.”

“On one side you have a state with nuclear weapons, tanks, artillery, fighter planes, helicopter gunships, warships, a fully operational army, and the best missile defence system in the world that has killed hundreds of innocent civilians, displaced more than 100,000 people, and destroyed the infrastructure of the people in Gaza, in the last couple of weeks.”

“On the other side you have kids with rocks, and irregulars with rockets who have killed 2 civilians.”

“Martin Luther King once said, He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.”

“Israel has committed a monstrous evil by its massacre of innocent civilians. MANA refuses to passively accept that evil and chooses to protest against it, and if that protest involves burning a mere flag, then so be it.”

“Those condemning the burning of the flag might want to take a look in the mirror and ask themselves what it is that they are doing to protest against the massacre in Gaza.”

Reports: Aotearoa stands in solidarity with Palestine

tamaki palestine demo Fightback supports the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement as a tactic to show solidarity with Palestinian resistance. The following reports are from demonstrations over the weekend from Fightback activists and supporters.

In Auckland, around 3000 people turned out on a miserably cold day to protest the latest Israeli attacks on Gaza. The rally heard speakers including John Minto from Mana, Roger Fowler from Kia Ora Gaza, Marama Davidson and Kennedy Graham from the Greens, and Mike Treen from Global Peace and Justice Alliance. Two young Palestinian girls also addressed the rally. A loud, vibrant march down Queen Street followed, with colourful banners, Palestinian flags and placards, and chants of “Free, Free Palestine”. The march ended at the US Consulate where protesters laid olive branches in memory of the victims of Israel’s genocide. MANA candidate John Minto called for the closure of the Israeli embassy. The protest ended with a song from Roger Fowler, “We are all Palestinians”. The event raised over $1700 for Gaza Mental Health Fund.chch palestine demo In Christchurch over 200 people gathered outside the Cathedral after just a few days’ notice to stand in solidarity with the people of Palestine. The rally, organised by ‘Canterbury for Justice in Palestine’ managed to raise $668 to go towards helping those in Gaza. Speakers included Martin & Lois of CJP, Brian Turner from the NZ Palestinian Human Rights lobby, Pauline McKay the current CWS director, Michael Hosking – long-time activist for Palestine, and Ben Peterson speaking on behalf of UNITE union. The crowd then marched down Colombo street and through Cashel Mall with chants of “From the river to the sea Palestine will be free” – receiving many toots of support from passing motorists. Without any regard for the low temperatures, much of the crowd stuck around for half an hour after the end of the event to network and plan further actions and organising. The consensus was clear: only with justice for Palestine can we achieve peace. poneke wellington demo In Wellington, 300 people attended a rally outside the Israeli Embassy. A number of Palestinians spoke on their experiences in Palestine and the Middle East recently, as well as speakers from the Wellington Palestine and the Wellington Boycott Divestment and Sanctions groups. Like the recent protests against the Batsheva Dance Company performances in Wellington, around 50 fundamentalist Christians were bussed down from Napier/Hastings to stage a counter protest on a parallel street to the pro-Palestine rally.

A crowd upwards of two hundred marched in Dunedin‘s CBD on Saturday bringing the usual flurry of shopping traffic to a halt as pleas were chanted to ‘FREE FREE PALESTINE’. The demonstrators were met at the cities heart, the Octagon, by representatives of the Greens, Mana Party, and the local Muslim community, where, in the downpour of rain, they joined in solidarity for the people of Palestine, showing their commitment to oppose the Zionist regime of Israel, demanding that not only the people of New Zealand, and it’s Government, but also of the UN and International community, not stand by in silence as Israel continues its ethnic cleanse of the Palestinian people. The crowd occupied the Octagon for over an hour in communion, even with the presence of a lonesome four pro­-Israel individuals holding placards with anti­Hamas slogans.

There’s pride in resistance, not apartheid

After the disruption of Israeli pinkwashing at Pride 2014, GayNZ asked activists involved to submit an article. This contribution comes from Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (Aotearoa), an online network including members of Fightback.

We are Arabs, Jews, Māori, Pākehā, Asians. We are queer. We value the work that LGBTI activists before us have done to improve the lives of queers in Aotearoa and the world over. We value Pride for creating a queer-positive space where our community can come together and celebrate who we are.

But we are not proud that queer struggles are hijacked by the state of Israel in order to ‘pinkwash’ its colonial violence towards Palestinians. We were not proud to see the Embassy of Israel included in Auckland Pride. This is why we had to take a stand, to protect queer spaces from being complicit in Israeli apartheid.

Pride_Israeli_Protest_2_-_John_Darroch.jpg

For many, our protest came as a surprise. The Israeli embassy, however, had anticipated the presence of protesters. In a press release just days before the event, the embassy was clear that their participation in Pride was motivated, not by a desire to support LGBTI rights, but as a PR exercise in response to Wellington protests against an Israeli Embassy-sponsored dance show.

The cynical use of queer rights as a publicity strategy to create a positive, humane image for Israel is not new, nor is it exclusive to New Zealand. In 2011 the Jewish lesbian writer Sarah Schulman published an op-ed in the New York Times criticising Israel’s ‘strategy to conceal the continuing violations of Palestinians’ human rights behind an image of modernity signified by Israeli gay life’. Other prominent queer Jews have echoed Schulman’s criticism of pinkwashing, including Judith Butler and Aeyal Gross.

The pinkwashing narrative presents a familiar racist trope: Arab societies are conservative, gender normative and homophobic. Israel is the only Middle-Eastern country where gays have equal rights. Queer Palestinians escaping persecution in their own communities relocate to Israel for asylum.

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A 2008 report on gay Palestinian asylum seekers in Israel, published by Tel Aviv University’s Public Interest Law Program, presents a very different picture. The report found that gay Palestinians who escape to Israel live in the country illegally—since Palestinians are barred from applying for refugee status in Israel. This means that they are in constant danger of being deported back to communities where they will be subject to homophobic violence. Israeli security services have been known to exploit this vulnerability, and blackmail Palestinian gays into becoming informants.

Even for Jewish-Israelis, the country is not a queer-loving utopia. Two months ago a trans woman was viciously attacked on the streets of Tel Aviv. A gang of 11 men assaulted her with pepper spray and tasers. Israeli police were quick to dismiss the attack as a ‘prank’ and denied that it was motivated by transmisogyny. Her attackers, it turns out, were off-duty officers in Israel’s Border Police.

It’s not surprising that the same young men who spends weekdays shooting and tear-gassing Palestinians also spend their weekends assaulting trans women. This is the intersection of militarism and homophobia in which Palestinian and Israeli queers exist.

Palestinian queer organisations like al-Qaws, Aswat and Palestinian Queers for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions have called on the global queer community to support their struggle against both Israeli apartheid and queerphobia. That call has been answered around the world, by groups like Queers Against Israeli Apartheid in Canada, No Pride in Israeli Apartheid in the UK, and Black Laundry in Israel.

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It’s out of a desire to support Palestinian queers, and in the tradition of intersectional queer politics, that we decided to take a public stand against the Israeli Embassy’s float at Auckland Pride. We know that some of our fellow queers think that Pride is not the appropriate time or place to make a political statement about Middle East politics. The argument that we shouldn’t mix pride parades with global politics sounds an awful lot like the 1980s argument that anti-apartheid protesters shouldn’t mix rugby with politics. We were not the ones who chose to use Pride as a platform for discussing Israel. The Israeli Embassy are the ones who decided to hijack a gay pride event and exploit to uphold a progressive image of a state that subjects its Indigenous inhabitants to apartheid.

Our queer politics are rooted in the principle of ‘no one left behind’. We do not accept the advancement of gay men at the expense of lesbians, or of cis queers at the expense of trans people. We also cannot accept the advancement of any queers at the expense of Palestinians.

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We recognise the link between colonisation of Palestine, and colonisation of Oceania and Aotearoa. Tagata Pasifika and tangata whenua gender and sexual diversity were violently displaced through the colonisation of this region. We celebrate the first ever Pasefika LGBT Youth float at Pride 2014. The hijacking of Pride to promote apartheid detracts from this celebration of diversity and solidarity.

We urge Auckland Pride—and all LGBT organisations in Aotearoa—to take a stand in solidarity with queer Palestinians and refuse to help Israel pinkwash its human rights abuses. There is no pride in being complicit with Israeli apartheid.

All pictures by John Darroch

Wellington action: Don’t dance with Israeli apartheid

batsheva israeli apartheid wellington

This year’s NZ Festival includes four performances by the Israeli Batsheva dance company.

Batsheva is an integral part of Israel’s Brand Israel public relations campaign. The dance company receives funding from the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which has described Batsheva as ‘the best known global ambassador of Israeli culture’.

Batsheva’s performance at NZ Festival is sponsored by the Embassy of Israel in New Zealand. One of the embassy’s roles is to enhance Israel’s public image in New Zealand by sponsoring Israeli cultural events such as this one. This is part of a deliberate strategy of using arts and culture to whitewash over Israel’s human rights abuses and violations of international law.

We will be outside Batsheva’s performance to protest Batsheva’s role in whitewashing Israeli apartheid. This is part of the global campaign of BDS (boycott, divestments, and sanctions) initiated by Palestinian civil society.

Organised by BDS Wellington.

7:30pm, Saturday 22nd February, St James Theatre

[Facebook event]

Wellington rally in solidarity with Gaza

12pm, Saturday 24th November
Cuba Mall bucket fountain

Facebook event

43rd anniversary of the PFLP’s founding

 

Tens of thousands of members and  supporters of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine gathered on December 11, 2010, in Gaza City’s Palestine Stadium, marking the forty-third anniversary of the PFLP’s founding in a mass rally.

Palestinians from all sectors – men and women, elderly and children, workers and farmers, attended the rally from all sectors of Gaza City, and traveling in groups from throughout the Gaza Strip, waving red flags that filled the stadium.

[Read more…]

Palestinian Organisations added to the New Zealand ‘Terrorist List’

The Spark December 2010 – January 2011

Mike Walker

On the 12th of October 2010 John Key designated “a further seven international terrorist groups under the Terrorism Suppression Act”.  He claimed it helped “implement our international obligations under United Nations Security Council Resolution 1373”. Under this pretence the addition of Palestinian organisations, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the military wing of Hamas (Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades), to the New Zealand list of designated terrorists, is especially problematic. To highlight the hypocrisy and contradiction involved in these designations I will examine parts of the Terrorist Designations Working Groups (TDWG) paper; “Statement of case to designate the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) as a terrorist entity”.

Terrorist Acts

A terrorist act is defined in the ‘Terrorist Suppression Act (TSA)’, section five, as an act which is carried out “for the purpose of advancing an ideological, political, or religious cause” or to “induce terror in a civilian population.” With outcomes such as “the death of, or serious bodily injury to, one or more persons”, “a serious risk to the health or safety of a population” or the “destruction of, or serious damage to, property of great value or importance, or major economic loss, or major environmental damage”.  The case to designate PIJ features two case studies, used to highlight terrorist acts and support the case for designation. [Read more…]

Deaths in the class war

Don Franks
The Spark September 2010

Last month saw two New Zealand soldiers wounded in Afghanistan and the
first New Zealand soldier killed.

Led by Prime minister John Key, who ordered an unprecedented lowering
of national flags across the country, politicians and news media
launched a lengthy storm of militaristic propaganda. [Read more…]