May 06, 2010

The logic of the oppressor

Haaretz published today an op-ed from Karni Eldad that climbs so many mountains of chutzpa at once that it deserves to be quoted in full. A future free humanity will assign the study of this op-ed in third grade, in the course on "the history of white arrogance," to be analyzed in the third week which would be devoted to the way oppression turns the oppressor into a sorry excuse for a primate, indeed, into a bundle of stupidity and narcissism from which there is no hope of recovery. Here it is with cliff notes attached.

Break the Palestinian boycott

The Mishor Adumim industrial zone in the West Bank is home to a cosmetics plant that sells 70 percent of its products to Palestinians. Recently, however, there has been a slight turnaround in relations between the factory and its customers. The Palestinian Authority ruled − in a presidential order, not the small-scale campaign of a few − to stop buying Israeli products manufactured east of the Green Line.

The PA is finally realizing that BDS is useful, and could help Fayyad build some popular legitimacy. This is of course a very favorable development and a huge success for BDS. But it should be also expected that the PA will try to take control of BDS and steer it for the benefit of its collaborative schemes, i.e. as a way to pressure Israel to speed up the creation of official Bantustans.

How is such an order enforced? Simple. The life of the factory sales manager is threatened, and he is then given an offer he can’t refuse: sell the factory at a ludicrous price, and we’ll transfer it to PA control, because we won’t be buying your products in any case.

There is the rather incredible assertion that the PA can seriously threaten the life of a Jewish settler. The second incredible assertion is the idea that a sales manager can sell the factory. The third third incredible assertion is that it is technically possible to sell a factory inside a settlement to a Palestinian owner. How would that work? But let's leave aside the quibbles. What really shocks Karni is the pressure of a Jew by Palestinians. No passaran! Of course, the siege of Gaza, which is a massive blackmail of 1.5 million people, is fine, not to mention 60 years of violence against Palestinians that cannot be questioned. The reference to the mafia ("offer he can't refuse") is quite instructive as a symptom of Karni's political unconscious. That a modern state must maintain the monopoly of violence gets a new meaning under apartheid, where the state of Israel, according to Karni, must maintain the monopoly of blackmail, extortion and assassination.

Those who silently stood by as Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad burned Israeli goods made in the West Bank simply accepted the presidential decree.

Why didn't the IDF get into Ramallah and kidnapped Fayyad immediately? Surely, what Salam Fayyad doesn't get, according to Karni, is that there is an o c c u p a t i o n there, that is not going away, and that the "Prime Minister" is supposed to be a puppet, torture activists upon request from the Shabak, and generally do what he is being told, not lead any collective Palestinian action for the benefit of Palestinians! He is supposed to run...something, not get involve in goddam politics!

The more important point however is not what gets Karni in knots but what her obtuse sense of entitlement actually hides. Salam Fayyad, who is a Washington appointee with almost zero political support among Palestinians, supports apartheid! The political pressure he is putting on Israel by burning watermelons has as its goal the establishment of a formal Palestinian Bantustan. But Karni is not satisfied. For her, it is not enough that the PM of the imaginary Palestinian "authority" sees himself as the chief of a future Bantustan. She wants him to behave like the head of a Judenrat, not only to allow Israel to maintain apartheid, but to meekly support his own total destruction! For this is the internal Israeli debate, not between peace and war, reconciliation or confrontation, but between the establishment of a formal apartheid that would be labeled "a Palestinian state," as favored by some on the Israeli left, and continuing colonization and ethnic cleansing until an opportunity presents itself to "complete 1948," and finish the ethnic cleansing of historic Palestine.

Moreover, the PA recently established a “National Honor Fund” to finance its boycott activities, to which it injects $150,000 a month. Whence the money? International donations meant to support political institutions.

Follow the money and you will discover European antisemites. That is the subtext. But the interesting thing to ponder, perhaps left for the class's bi-weekly essay, is what the meaning of "political institutions" is in Karni's lexicon. According to Karni, engaging in politics, for example by exercising pressure, is not an acceptable role for "political institutions". Nor should the political institutions of a state engage in something as silly as nationalism. A "national honor fund" is a misuse of donations, but the "Jewish National Fund", which facilitates ethnic cleansing in the West Bank with monies donated from abroad, is not a misuse of donations. This is in the context of Zionism, which debuted with a boycott of Arab labor and the destruction of Arab produce by "socialist" thugs.

Israel remained silent last month when the so-called “committee against distributing settlement goods” confiscated and destroyed 7.5 tons of watermelons grown in West Bank fields. Israel stays mum when the Arabs work to impose an economic embargo on settlement products, and when the PA imposes the same on Israeli mobile phone companies, which are not centered in the West Bank.

Other that the occupation with all its daily violence, the siege of Gaza, the areal bombardments, the continued building in the settlements, the shooting of protesters, the repression of peaceful demonstrations in places such as Bil'in, the persecution of Israelis such as Anat Kam, the holding of over 7,000 Palestinian political prisoners, "Israel remained silent last month." According to OCHA, in the first two weeks of April, Israel carried "a weekly average of 87 search operations inside Palestinian towns and villages." In these operations, "Israeli forces injured 34 Palestinians, including ten children." In addition,

The Israeli army imposed a general closure on the West Bank, running from 29 March 2010 through 6 April 2010, due to the Jewish holiday of Passover...During this period, Israeli forces blocked the main roads of Silwan and Wadi Al Joz neighbourhoods in East Jerusalem, only allowing the passage of pedestrians. As a result, most of the students in Silwan were unable to attend their schools on two days (31 March & 1 April)...Also, Gilo checkpoint (Bethlehem), the main access point into East Jerusalem through the Barrier from the southern West Bank, was closed between 28 and 31 March following a demonstration that took place at the checkpoint. As a result, tourist buses were prevented from accessing Bethlehem City and Palestinian medical cases were not allowed into East Jerusalem through the checkpoint...a 63 year-old Palestinian man from the village of Deir Abu Da'if (Jenin) who was travelling to Jordan, died of a heart attack shortly after being delayed by Israeli soldiers for around one and a half hours at the Al Hamra checkpoint, which controls access to and from the Jordan Valley. OCHA bi-weekly report

Apart from all that, Israel was silent, peaceful, and minding its own business! Why would anyone want to harm a watermelon?

It is indeed remarkable that the cellular boycott has been put in place exactly when the son of a high-ranking PA official is launching a company that will distribute the same services.

Let us recall when the entrepreneurial spirit of Abbas's offspring first made news. It was a year ago, when Abbas was blackmailed by Israel and the US to support delaying a vote on the Goldstone Report at the Human Rights Council with threats to withhold the license for a telecommunication company, Wataniya, in which the Abbas family is heavily invested. It is hardly surprising that the capitalistic and corrupt PA would try to steer the boycott and Palestinian nationalism in general to the direction of enriching a sliver of Palestinian collaborators. Corruption, however, is Israel and the US's most important mean of binding the Palestinian collaborator class to their interests. In order to do that, Palestinian corruption has to be supported, and collaborators given an opportunity to enrich themselves. That puts the PA in a minor conflict with the fringes of Israeli capital who benefit directly from the captive Palestinian market. The result is a tragicomedy--Karni defending the right of the corrupt and monopolistic telecommunication companies in Israel to freely compete over and profit from Palestinian customers living under occupation, against a PA administration who wants to monopolize the profits from this same "demographics" through an attempt to translate a liberation struggle into a pressure for establishing Bantustans.

Amid the presidential order on settlement-made goods, Palestinians have been forbidden to work in the factories producing these goods or in construction in settlements. For now, the order applies only to new workers, but veteran employees have been offered one month’s pay from the PA as an incentive to quit.

More Palestinian encroachment on "free markets," this time labor markets. What about "free movement," or in general, freedom?

In the wake of the accursed Oslo Accords, the 1994 Paris Protocol was signed, establishing interim economic ties between Israel and the PA. The boycott against settlement merchandise is a clear violation of this agreement, by which both sides pledged not to undermine the other’s economy.

You know End Times are coming when the apologists of the settlers are complaining over a breach of the Oslo Accords. From 1994 till today, Israel, of course, did nothing that we remember (since we are not supposed to remember anything) to undermine the Palestinian economy. Nothing, that is, beyond closure, a system of checkpoints, the importation of Thai and Filipino migrant labor to replace Palestinians working in Israel, the massive destruction of infrastructure, especially in the years 2002-2004 in the West Bank and last year in Gaza, etc. etc.

The same agreement also determined customs and tax issues between Israel and the Palestinians. When a Palestinian individual or company imports merchandise from abroad, Israel collects customs taxes and transfers them to PA coffers. In total, more than $1 billion is collected annually. Reason dictates that in the case of such a flagrant violation of the Paris Protocol by the Palestinians, we should collect the money lost by Israeli companies due to the boycott by recouping it from customs money we transferred to the Palestinians.

Three points: 1.) "Reason dictates", are perhaps the two most chilling words in this article. The "reason" that is evoked, dictatorial, unhinged, delusional, punitive, decontextualized and vacuous, is the reason that drives Kafka's imaginary "In the penal colony," and Europe's all too real and historical camps. That it appears here as a tick should not be allowed to go unnoticed. The tick hides the abyss of the logic of death that colonialism established in the West and that, far from having been destroyed with the defeat of Nazi Germany, has come to dominate the world in general, and in particular its various vanguards, among them Zionism. Israel, as we all know, is totally reasonable. It only "defends itself" from the victims who seek to overwhelm it with their alien birth power.

2) There is one aspect of Karni's argument that is commendable. Within the right context, there are certainly cases where states than break the rules and flagrantly ignore their obligations should be brought back to their senses by economic pressure such as boycott. It's good that we can agree on that.

3) The question is the context in which boycotts are legitimate. It should be noted here how the thinking of apartheid apologists such as Karni seeks to embed itself in economic logic of neoliberalism, which, to paraphrase and to invert Lenin, is perhaps "the highest stage of the concentration camp," that is, no longer a merely bureaucratic strategy but the new principle of geography itself. Whatever Israel is doing to Palestinians is inconsequential for Karni, not because, pay attention, Palestinians are not human beings, but precisely because they are merely human beings. The only legitimate role of the state, and of the international order, to intervene as a defender of rights, is to defend companies and their investors from losses that result from resistance to their rule.

Such a move requires no law, only a modicum of national honor − and it’s a step that could bring the economic embargo to an immediate end. At a recent meeting of the Knesset Finance Committee, Manufacturers Association President Shraga Brosh − hardly viewed as a staunch rightist − proposed another solution: barring the export of Palestinian goods from Israeli ports.

With Israeli manufacturers facing closure in the face of a Palestinian presidential order, I would expect to hear an outcry from lawmakers from every hue of the political spectrum. The Palestinians’ blatant violation of the Paris Protocol is an affront, but silence in the face of it is a crime.

"Silence in the face of it is a crime." Where did we hear that phrase? Suffice to say that to use this high language, a language that insinuates that, God forbids, watermelons might be gassed in Ramallah, in the defense of the right of a few Jewish capitalists to extract their petty profit from the literally captive market of Palestinians under occupation, is the appropriate conclusion for an argument unmoored from the human spirit. "Silence in the face of" burning watermelons and boycotting products "is a crime." Whereas silence in the face of apartheid and the siege of Gaza is, what? Watermelons?



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