MICHAEL NEUMANN: unprincipled attack on ANSWER

Mike Friedman mikedf at amnh.org
Sun Nov 10 23:15:30 MST 2002

To Mohammed-
Boy, are you off base. And a little too young to know about the divestment
struggle of the late 70s. Apartheid South Africa and Israel share more than
simply an adherence to a racist ideology. They were/are both colonial
settler states whose role goes beyond assuring that their populations
remain compliant with the aims of imperialism, as would be the case with a
despotic regime in a colonial nation. They were/are both praetorian
outposts of imperialism whose function includes maintaining regional
stability and control over vital natural resources and labor. Both nations
existed on the basis of land seized from the indigenous populations  Both
nations policed locations that were both of strategic interest and sources
of important natural resources. Both nations projected force into
neighboring colonial nations when their populations became unruly. (As
colonial settler states, they are uniquely adapted to this role, because
their populations enjoy standards of living on a par with imperialist
nations and buy in to this project.) What is different with regard to the
two states is the international context, a question of epoch, not of the
two countries' roles vis a vis imperialism. There is no qualitative
difference in the latter regard. Just to mention a few items that need to
be kept in mind, there's been some discussion of the U.S. ruling class'
swing to the right, brought on by shrinking options for imperialism. With
regard to the two colonial settler states, the U.S. was just as adamant in
its support for apartheid South Africa, as it is today with Israel.
However, two other contextual elements come into play. First, the existence
of the Soviet Union, which was decisive for Southern African liberation
struggles, directly or indirectly. Today, we have a "unipolar" world.
Second, the existence of a "fifth column" in the United States, by which I
mean the massive African American community, which actively sympathized
with South African freedom fighters. The corallary of this latter point, is
that the Afrikaaners didn't have a significant lobby in the U.S. The
situation with regard to Israel is obviously reversed. As a result of this
balance of forces, within a more favorable international context, the U.S.
was forced to use another approach, demagogically claiming to support
"reforms" for the apartheid regime, while doing their best to undermine the
liberation forces. The U.S. approach was best exemplified by its response
to the relatively massive divestment movement on U.S. campuses in the late
1970s. U.S. corporations and government came up with the "Sullivan
Principles" (named after some U.S. congressperson), which sought to blunt
some of the more obnoxious practices of corporate adherence to apartheid,
while maintaining the structures of apartheid intact. This was the context
for the real differences between the campus anti-apartheid/anti-zionist
movements of then and now. I would state, first of all, that the campus
movement against zionism is at a vastly different stage than the movement
against apartheid was when the latter was able to achieve results. At the
current stage, the balance of forces is vastly different. Even when the
movement peaked, most university heads refused to consider divestment.
Several key boards of trustees were forced, kicking and screaming, to
divest. My university (Cornell), and most others, never divested, or they
simply played shell games. But, the movement achieved such momentum that it
had an impact on popular consciousness and public debate, particularly --
as noted -- since it was concordant with a significant portion of the U.S.
population. Even granting your argument that somehow Israel is
qualitatively more important to U.S. imperialism than South Africa was,
gives the divestment struggle of today qualitatively greater importance.


>Date: Sun, 10 Nov 2002 11:25:58 -0500
>From: "M. Junaid Alam" <redjaguar at attbi.com>
>Subject: Re:MICHAEL NEUMANN: unprincipled attack on ANSWER
>It is also entirely incorrect--ENTIRELY--to pretend that this divestment
>movement is, in degree and calibre, the same as the anti-S.A. movement.
>South Africa was dispensable for imperialism. Israel is not. In fact the
>U.S. has just announced it will severely punish any company that boycotts
>Israel. Moreover the university heads will never even consider this
>proposal. They will invent shit written on bathroom walls, as they already
>have, as some impending sign of a new Kristallnacht.

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