Supporting Arafat, and the Issue of Suicide Bombings

Mohammad J Alam alam.m at
Tue Apr 2 22:31:59 MST 2002

No Marxist can be a supporter of Yasser Arafat. But why the hell not?

I believe that Domnhall screws this issue up badly, by linking support for
Arafat with support for Palestinians as a whole. One does not automatically
translate into the other. On the contrary, supporting Yasser Arafat means
supporting a decade of the Death Process; a decade of comprador bourgeoisie
brutality against Palestinian activists that would have normally been
carried out by the Israeli fascists. Marxists should leave the task of
supporting Arafat to the liberal Zionist wing and American imperialists,
who want a healthy, viable, Palestinian puppet to control the 'uppity
sandniggers' for them.

It is a logical fallacy, however, to conclude that this means we go around
denouncing Arafat abstractly. Given the circumstances, it is first and
foremost imperative that we emphasize all the reasons why we support
Palestinian self-determination and condemn Israeli fascism. Denouncing
Arafat vocally now, means playing into the hands of the historical
simplists who blame him for everything--and are anti-Palestinian.

Nevertheless, this extraordinary situation does not absolve us from
objectively understanding who Arafat is in class terms. He is a member of
the compromising Palestinian bourgeoisie who wants to carve himself out a
role as a privileged quisling. It is just that the Israelis are so racist
and brutal, they can make even him look like a sort of hero or fighter at
times, especially now. This is because we are not dealing with a classical
anti-colonial struggle; Israel is a deformed anachronism, a settler state
that is used by the big imperialists, not inhabited by them. In other
words, the Israelis are caught in a dual dilemma: on the one hand they face
blowback from the brutality they have imposed, and on the other they been
used as a tool by a greater brutalizing power. So unlike the classical
colonial process whereby the natives were assimilated into the capitalist
system, the Palestinians remain pauperized peasants, as Arab labor is
unwelcomed by the Jewish ethnocentrists. This deformity explains why Arafat
can't fit into the classical role of comprador--there is no basis for it,
because there is no bourgeois nationalism to be had. The Palestinian
Question is linked directly with the impoverished masses of the entire Arab
region, and cannot be isolated from it.

Domnhall is placing the situation in apocalyptic terms, as if the world
hinges on whether or not Arafat has electricity. This plays into the hands
of the media, who are definitely trying to make Israel's reoccupation look
like a maneuver that is brutal only to the Palestinian Authority. In
reality, this is not the beginning of the end; it is only the end of the
beginning. By accelerating the war process, Israeli action has quickly
exposed Oslo and all its aspects as a complete sham. The PA is finished,
the false "peace" framework is dead, Israeli fascism is exposed naked, with
no false handshakes to hide the now-obvious.

The bare contradictions are grinding against each other like two grating
sides of raw metal, and the intervening piece of Oslo rubber has melted
away as the friction of the 'grating' has increased exponentially. The
flying sparks are visible even now, as Arab masses are beginning to protest
Israel in Egypt and Jordan. It is this very imminent reality that the Arab
despots feared in the first place, which forced them to call for the
now-dead Arab summit proposal. American plans to bomb Iraq will only
guarantee the inevitable uprising that must take place across the Arab
world sooner or later.

Indeed, the American regime has no decisive answer to the problem. Their
watchdog is straining its leash, interfering with its grand Iraq solution,
and the Palestinians won't go away. Even the CIA and Bush's own staff know
that their position is incoherent.

In the following lines, I am opening up to debate about the nature of
suicide bombings. I am trying to grapple with the issue now, as the
deepening of events have given me much reason to reflect, so below I
attempt an explanation that likely sounds Fanonist. Of course, I would like
debate and criticism on the topic.

For the first time in decades, it is not the actions of an American
military spokesman or corporate sponsor that controls the world--but the
power of those who have conquered fear of death because they have been
raped of the joy of life. Every suicide bombing literally shatters and
explodes the myth of harmony under imperialism, and constitutes a
concentrated, intensified expression of anger against oppression.

Naturally, the presumed objection is that the bombings are amoral and
horrific. Undoubtedly true--but does anyone really pretend that anything
less dramatic and desperate as this measure can express, in reverse, the
brutality of imperialism? Does anyone really believe that a half-century of
concentration camps would produce anything but this? What other alternative
is left when civil disobedience ends in a machine gun slaughter, when mass
mobilization is prevented by imposition of discontinguous ghettoes? In this
deformed setup, where the Palestinians have not been 'converted' into
workers, but tormented for decades as refugees, the deformed result is
suicide bombing. I do not think that the suicide bombings are a tactical
mistake--not because they aren't horrific, but because they are not
"tactical", but inevitable. The Israelis conjured up these suicide bombers
in the same manner the Europeans conjured up the WWI slaughter (turning
machine guns used to mow down the natives on each other).

Why is suicide bombing worse than airplane bombing, or rifle fire, or
helicopter missiles? Casualty-wise, Israelis have exacted far more civilian
casualties then vice-versa. So why the fixation of the suicide attacks? It
seems to me that those with great moral qualms on this question could
satisfy themselves by bequeathing the Palestinians with tanks, guns, and
bombs, in order to more honorably carry out their struggle. But of course,
this solution does not satisfy our self-appointed moralists.

If we untwist the racist knot Friedman tied in his latest op-ed, where he
says the Palestinians have found the Jews' weakspot--their desire to
live--we get a more accurate picture. It is not the "Jewish" desire to
live, but the Israeli willingness to flourish at the expense of the direct
deprivation of millions, that must antagonize the Palestinians. Which is
worse: the willingness of a population to dine, dance, and celebrate on
land stolen from people now starving, tortured, and humiliated that you
have expelled and expropriated, or the reflexive anger of the displaced?

I think what really bothers Friedman and his fascist friends is that his
whole quip about every McDonalds needing a McDonnel Douglas has been
converted for use by the Palestinian masses. The oppressed, in particularly
brutal circumstances, will not offer themselves up for prostitution and
enslavement. And so, tired of being bombed and beaten but unable to respond
militarily, the Palestinians are prepared to protest McDonnel Douglas by
blowing up McDonalds.

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