suicide bombers

Philip Ferguson plf13 at
Wed Apr 3 17:24:26 MST 2002

>> However, I think we need to be
>> careful about sounding as if these attacks are supportable and sopmehow
>> anti-imperialist.  Because they're generally not.

>There's a whiff of left imperialism (this is a critique of a tendency, not a
>personal attack) in the implication that Palestinians have to meet some
>litmus test for "anti-imperialist" before they can be "supportable."

You are clearly misinterpreting me here.  I said that *various kinds of
suicide bombers* were insupportable, not *the Palestinians*.  My support
for the Palestinians is unconditional, and doesn't depend on the existence
or non-existence of suicide bombers.  So it has nothing to do with 'left

>> Now, if a suicide bomber gets to an IDF checkpoint, or manages to drive
>> into an IDF patrol or whatever, and blows him/herself sky high along with
>> bunch of IDFers, fair enough.  War is war.  But blowing up families and
>> kids in cafes and on buses is a whole other thing.

>So what alternative has been left to the Palestinians, in the concrete
>conditions that exist there right now?

The *Palestinian masses* have not become suicide bombers.  Hardly any
Palestinians, in fact, are suicide bombers.  Clearly, most Palestinians do
not see suicide bombing as the road they want to take!  So it ill-becomes
leftists sitting safely in the imperialist centres to cheer on people to
their deaths in this manner.

Suicide bombing is a sign of hopelessness and despair, not a vibrant
national liberation movement.

Instead of being armchair cheerleaders for pointless waste of life, we
should be doing all we can to build solidarity with the Palestinian
liberation struggle and strengthen its secular, left-wing elements.

Haven't you learned anything from the experience of Iran in 1979, when most
of the Western left cheer-led for Khomeini?

>The IDF is quite simply too hard a
>target for them.  War is war, and in many wars, as they becomes more
>generalized, the enemy becomes the entire society.  War does not and can not
>ever be contained by rules about combatants and non-combatants.  Those lines
>disappear very quickly.  For Palestinians to restrict themselves to the
>"rules of war" that so heavily favor the more powerful military force would
>be tantamount to surrender.

Firstly, who said anything about the Palestinians restricting themselves to
'rules of war'?  It helps a discussion if you actually read what the other
person wrote.  I stated outright that I had no problem with suicide bombers
targeting the IDF.  Why do you pretend that I didn't say this?

>> Ordinary Israeli citizens are not legitimate targets and suicide bombers
>> who do target them are not fighting for anyone's liberation, any more than
>> the Sept 11 attackers were.  If these people ever got in power, the first
>> to be lined up against the wall would be the left, especially the atheist
>> left.


Again, haven't you learned anything form Iran 1979?

Or are you saying 'Nonsense' to my statement that ordinary citizens are not
legitimate targets.

If you are so in favour of suicide bombing of civilians, why not strap some
explosives to yourself and go into some corporate HQ in the US, or even
into a Big Mac cafe?

>Aside from the sly premise that "liberation" is the issue,
>instead of land, self-determination, and an end to the Zionist occupation
>and colonization, what exactly are you suggesting they ARE fighting for?

Er, Stan, liberation *is* self-determination etc.  Y'know, liberation from
oppression.  How could you think that liberation is anything other than an
end to Zionist rule and oppression.  Indeed, liberation means the
destructiuon of the state of Israel.

Also, perhaps you should email all the Palestinian nationalist groups and
tell them to take the word 'liberation' out of their name, because it's
merely a "sly premise" and what you have decided their struggle is about.
You know, the Palestine *Liberation* Organistaion, the Popular Front for
the *Liberation* of Palestine*, the Democratic Front for the *Liberation*
of Palestine.

>This is dangerously close to the mainstream media caricatures of evil
>religious fanatics, and your "up against the wall" remark only reinforces
>that impression.

Since you put  the words *up against the wall* in quotes, perhaps you would
explain where in my post these words appear.  Again, you have just made
them up.  Not a very good way of carrying on a discussion.

>It is a racist caricature when deployed by Zionist
>apologists and American xenophobes, and we should be very vigilant to
>identify it and root it out of our own consciounsness.  You have conflated a
>number of different organizations into "these people".

More quotes that aren't quotes!

Far from conflating anything, I argued that we should be working to
strengthen the secular, militant nationalist wing of the Palestinian and
not just acting as blanket cheerleaders to suicide bombers.  So, far from
conflating people - let alone "these people", who seem to exist only in
your mind - I *differentiated* between radical nationalism and Islamic

It is you who are involved in doing the conflating.

You, howveer, believe that suport for the Palestinian masses means having
to suport suicide bombing per se.  Thus it is clearly you who are
conflating different groups and courses of action.

>> We should be doing everything possible to strengthen the secular, militant
>> wing of the Palestinian movement in order to ensure the best possible
>> outcome of the struggle.  A Marxist movement, or even just an effective
>> radical nationalist movement, would have a two-pronged strategy in
>> to the IDF - engage them military (ie shoot them and blow them up) *and*
>> politically (ie leaflets calling on them to desert, refuse service, make
>> common cause etc).  Like the Vietnamese fighting the Yanks.

>Palestine is not Vietnam.  It's not the United States.  It's not Australia.
>It's not Belfast.  It strikes me as a bit presumptuous of any of us who are
>not actively engaged with the dynamic complexities on the ground there to be
>offering up cookie cutter proposals on how "those people" should advance
>their struggle.

More quotes that aren't quotes.

On the basis of your argument, Marxists in the West would have no business
criticising Arafat either.

In fact, I would argue that effective solidarity with the Palestinian
struggle means recognising what a disaster Arafat and his politics have
been.  This is, in no way, to let the imperialists off the hook.  Our main
fire has to be directed against them.  But this doesn't mean we should have
nothing to say about Arafat, or about suicide bombers.

>As an american marxist, my own inclination is to fight
>Zionist propaganda here and work toward the political and economic isolation
>and cut-off of the Israeli state.  Palestinians will resolve Palestinian

Since no-one has suggested otherwise, this is another of your strawperson

In terms of Palestinians resolving Palestinian issues, the fact is that
most Palestinians have resolved not to be suicide bombers.

Moreover, the question remains - if there are different strategies being
pursued in the Palestinian movement, and some are ineffective (eg Arafat)
and some are potentially much more effective (PFLP and DFLP) then it is not
simply a question of standing idly by.  For instance, when Arafat arrested
a load of PFLP leaders, what was your position?  Judging by what you have
said above, it would have to be to reamin silent and let Palestinians sort
it out.  But this would be to allow the right-wing of the Palestinian
movement to suppress the left-wing of the movement.

>> A serious Palestinian liberationist strategy also means trying to engage
>> the Israeli working class.  A free Palestine can't be achieved by wading
>> through their blood, however frustrating their adherence to the Israeli
>> state may be.

>This is the kind of mechanistic marxism that puts me back on my Zoloff.

Well, the Zoloff explains a lot.

>>Here a lesson might be taken from South Africa and Ireland
>> in terms of realising that it is not the ordinary white or Prod who is the
>> problem/enemy, but the institution of apartheid (South Africa) and
>> imperialist domination (Ireland).

>I reiterate.  This is Palestine we are discussing.

Ah, of course.  So no lessons from anywhere else are worthwhile in this
case.  How silly of me to think that anti-imperialists in one country might
draw inspiration and lessons from anti-imperialist struggles elsewhere.

> But as a southerner in
>the US, I have to point out that white working class folks here participated
>in a hell of a lot of lynchings.  Regardless of the theorizing to the
>contrary, when they were doing that, they were definitely the enemy of the
>black working class people they lynched.

But we are not talking about the virtually inveterate bigots and racists.
We are talking about the *mass* of the working class of the oppressor group.

In South Africa, white workers were complicit in even worse stuff.
Moreover, in South Africa blacks were the big majority and could have
adopted a position of wading through the blood of whites.  But they didn't.
This was because the struggle in South Africa was a struggle for
*liberation* not vengeance.  You don't win liberation struggles by seeing
how many of the civilians/ordinary workers of the oppressor state you can
kill.  That really is an imperialist mentality.  Imperialists think you can
kill ooads of civilians and force an oppressed people to surrender.  Your
blanket support for suicide bombing is just an inversion of imperialist

Liberation movements have never adopted this thinking, and most of the
Palestinian nationalist movement hasn't adopted it either.

Moreover, if you think you are going to build much of a solidarity movement
in the US by running around cheering suicide bombers you are in for a few
shocks.  Such blanket support merely indicates the marginality of your own

Lastly, I might add that this is a *Marxist* list.  However we might deal
with the issue of suicide bombers in a public debate with Zionists, we
should remember that on this list we are speaking as Marxists to fellow
Marxists and thus criticism of *certain forms* of suicide bombing should be
no big deal.

Philip Ferguson

>On another note, I know I just got back on the list, and I'm kind of jumping
>in here, but I'd be very interested in hearing some thoughts (and evidence)
>with regard to how this escalation is impacting the political situation in
>Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, UAE, etc.  Surely this is creating a grand
>panic for members of those ruling classes, and a panic that would be
>contagious to the US political regime, were it not for their inoculation by
>hubris and stupidity.

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