• Colombia’s Coal Embargo on Israel Is a Model to Follow

    Vous voulez savoir ce que c’est la solidarité ? Voilà. Le mouvement ouvrier international existe et agit contre ses adversaires.

    17.6.2024 by Rula Jamal - On June 8, Colombian president Gustavo Petro announced that his country will suspend coal exports to Israel until the genocide stops. Colombian coal accounted for more than 60 percent of all coal supplied to Israel in 2023, and the Israeli power grid depends on coal for 22 percent of its output. The same grid supplies electricity to Israel’s illegal settlements and arms factories as well as infrastructure used by the Israeli military in perpetrating genocide against Palestinians in Gaza.

    With Colombia being the largest coal exporter to Israel, this decision is not only a victory in symbolic terms but shows the enormous impact that a wider energy embargo could have in ending Israel’s genocide in Gaza, as well as the power of the transnational organizing that brought the decision about.

    Only a few weeks into the genocide, the largest Colombian mine workers’ union, Sintracarbón, responded to a call for solidarity from the Palestinian trade union movement, issuing a statement demanding the halting of Colombian coal exports to Israel. In raising this demand, the miners also highlighted Israel’s nefarious role in training paramilitaries and mercenaries responsible for widespread atrocities in Colombia, and rallied workers globally to stop the production of metals, minerals and fuels that are used in these wars . . . the planet is on the verge of a new world war and it is the workers who can and have the obligation to stop this threat against the existence of the human race.

    Building on this call, a coalition of Palestinian groups, under the banner of the Global Energy Embargo for Palestine, initiated a wider demand for a multilevel embargo against energy transfers that fuel Israeli genocide and apartheid over Palestinians. This included demands to end the transfer of energy to Israel, the purchase of Israeli gas, and the collaboration of energy companies in Israeli energy projects.

    An energy embargo has the potential to place immediate and long-term pressure on Israel, particularly through the coal supply chain. Most of Israel’s coal comes from Colombia and South Africa, two states committed to standing with the Palestinian people. However, despite South Africa initiating the case at the International Court of Justice against Israel, and Colombia expelling the Israeli ambassador, coal exports from both states have continued unabated.

    The Global Energy Embargo for Palestine campaign was born out of a connection between struggles, building on an alliance with Colombian trade unions and indigenous groups, both of whom have — in very different ways — a long history of struggle against the coal industry in Colombia. This coming together demonstrates that Palestinian cause is not isolated on a world scale, but part of a broader global movement for collective action and liberation.

    The two main companies responsible for extracting coal destined for Israel are the Swiss Glencore and the American Drummond, which supply more than 90 percent of the Colombian coal sent to Israel. Their coal extraction has damaging effects of its own, especially on the Afro-descendant and indigenous populations of the country’s Caribbean north. They have been displaced from their lands, killed by toxic coal powder, and have had vital water resources, such as the Rancheria River, polluted and stolen from them. Environmental activists, tribal organizations, and trade unionists resisting environmental destruction have been consistently targeted and murdered by mining corporations and right-wing militias.

    In their mobilizations, indigenous leaders drew parallels between their people’s struggles and the cause of Palestine, combining calls on Petro to cut trade ties with Israel with demands to hold mining companies responsible for their human rights violations in Colombia, as well as for enabling Israel’s genocide.

    Petro’s announcement came after a transnational global day of action against Glencore for their human rights abuses on May 28, where Palestinian organizations wrote directly to the president with their demand that he end coal exports.

    This mobilization brought about the monumental decision to suspend Colombian coal exports to Israel. It demonstrates how mobilizations across borders, with clear demands and through shared principles and values, can weave together an effective campaign that challenges global powers, imperialism, and colonialism.

    It is reported that Israel has enough coal reserves to cover its immediate needs. However, it will need to turn to other suppliers, like Australia, Kazakhstan, Russia, and South Africa to address the shortfall, and will likely be forced to pay more in premiums.

    This further highlights the need for the global energy embargo. If other states follow Colombia’s lead and commit to cutting off coal supplies, then the economic cost to Israel will be raised still further, acting as a major source of pressure to agree to a cease-fire.

    Colombia’s announcement represents only the start in a global campaign to end the genocide and bring justice to the Palestinian people after over seven decades of colonial and apartheid rule by Israel.

    The solidarity between Colombia and Palestine made it more likely the Colombian government would act on these demands. In other circumstances, more sustained mobilizations will be needed to be impactful. However, other key states, such as South Africa, which delivers around 9 percent of Israel’s coal, or Brazil, which provides Israel with crude oil exports, also ought to be targeted by global mobilizations.

    States and international leaders who do not heed the call will remain complicit in Israel’s genocide of Gaza. An energy embargo is a crucial way to end this complicity — and for the global community to take a principled stand with the Palestinian people.

  • France’s Establishment Is Preparing for a Le Pen Government

    Si je comprends bien cet article les fascistes au sein des institutions francaises préparent depuis longtemps l’arrivée au pouvoir de leurs figures de proue. Nous connaissons tous une sorte de « preview » de ce que sera leur politique. L’agence européenne Frontex est un projet réalisé par les mêmes fanatiques xénophopes et suprémacistes qui se préparent à transformer la France dans un régime du genre Vichy 2.0 . Les élections seront alors dramatiques. Leur résultat le sera aussi s’il donne raison aux partisans d’une sixième République Vichyste.

    14.6.2024 by Marlon Ettinger - For years, French media has speculated on “Les Horaces,” a secret group of state officials who hope to join a far-right government. With Marine Le Pen’s party heading polls for the parliamentary elections, their plans look closer to reality than ever.

    For nearly a decade there have been whispers of a secret group in French politics called the “Horaces.” Expecting that Marine Le Pen will one day become president, this circle of influential senior government officials and business leaders have been assiduously preparing for her first hundred days in power.

    According to a report from Le Point, they numbered around eighty people in 2016, and included judges and teachers, members of the military bureaucracy, lawyers and CEOs, as well as functionaries in government ministries and higher education. By 2017, a report in Marianne put their number at 155, though a 2024 investigation in Libération narrowed the circle back down to an efficient twenty-eight. These men reportedly dine with Le Pen, draft her program and speeches, and author her campaign initiatives and about-faces (it was this group, according to an Agence France-Presse report, that urged Le Pen to step away from the aspects of her program that have sometimes feigned a defense of France’s social welfare system).

    They’ve also plotted attacks on Le Pen’s opponents, like Jean-Luc Mélenchon, drafting messaging in 2017 in case the left-wing presidential candidate forced a runoff between himself and Le Pen instead of Emmanuel Macron.

    Now, after the Rassemblement National (RN)’s crushing performance in the European elections, and the political thunderbolt of Macron’s announcement of snap elections, Le Pen truly is closer to power than ever. This is not just a campaign slogan, but a widely understood reality. Éric Ciotti, the leader of the mainstream right-wing party Les Républicains, announced on Tuesday afternoon that he was prepared to forge an alliance with Le Pen, snapping the thin film between respectable Gaullism and the far right (in reality, this film has been porous for year). Les Républicains quickly splintered, with the party’s political bureau voting to strip Ciotti of the presidency. Still, Ciotti was backed by the leader of Les Républicains’ youth wing, and according to one poll over 50 percent of their voters support such a right-wing alliance with Le Pen.

    The shockwave of Macron’s dissolution of parliament and the political opportunities that it has opened up has prompted figures like Ciotti to openly proclaim what they really think — and pushed forward the schedule for a Rassemblement National government that now feels all but inevitable. It’s ten minutes to midnight for those who want to stop Le Pen. But even before this political earthquake, way back in the now-distant campaign for Sunday’s European elections, senior officials with profiles that matched the foggy outlines of the Horaces were stepping out of the shadows to contest for power openly. With Le Pen’s dominant performance over the weekend, some of those senior officials are now members of the European Parliament (MEPs), charged with making policy in a much more direct way than ever before.

    There was the former head of the EU’s border agency Fabrice Leggeri, number three on the Rassemblement National list and Thierry Mariani, a longtime member of the mainstream right-wing party Les Républicains, minister of transport from 2010 to 2012, and number nine on the list. They were both easily elected. There’s also a criminal magistrate, Pascale Piera, a high-ranking representative of France’s justice system and elected from position number ten. Twenty-fifth on the list — but still comfortably elected — is Pierre Pimpie, deputy director of the body charged with securing the nation’s railways.

    During a debate in the run-up to the election, Macron’s young prime minister, Gabriel Attal, tried to portray Le Pen’s Rassemblement National as an ill-prepared, flighty outfit led by politicians ready to say anything and change any opinion to get power. But outside of empty politicking, Attal underestimates just how ready this party is to govern, just how long it’s been preparing to take power, and who’s ready to join it on its road to the top.
    The Horaces

    When Hossam Boutros Messiha came to France from Egypt he was eight years old and didn’t speak a word of French. The son of an Egyptian diplomat, when he turned twenty he became a naturalized citizen of France and changed his name to Jean. “I’m assimilated,” Messiha told the newspaper Libération in 2017. “Arab on the outside, French on the inside.”

    Messiha was educated at the prestigious École nationale d’administration (ENA) and in 2005 became a project manager for the Army’s chief of staff. His career didn’t attract much public attention, but he marched steadily up the ranks of the civil service within the Ministry of Defense.

    In 2014, by Messiha’s account, he sent an email to the Rassemblement National and met Le Pen the same year. They were interested in him, and later on would refer to him, with his impeccable educational background and career as a functionary, as a prize.

    In an interview with the reactionary journal Valeurs actuelles earlier this year, Messiha claimed that joining Le Pen’s party in 2015 cost him his civil service career. But the same year he met Le Pen, he also became an assistant to the ministry’s deputy director of operational management. He remained trusted enough in that position that in 2016 the minister of defense gave him the formal authority to sign all “acts, orders, and decisions” in the minister’s name for the division, according to an announcement in the government’s official gazette.

    And according to an investigation by Mediapart last year, Messiha’s civil service career didn’t end when he joined RN at all. Nor did it end when he left that party in 2018 and threw his support behind far-right pundit and presidential candidate Éric Zemmour in 2022 as his spokesman.

    Collaborating with Le Pen, Messiha reportedly racked up five figures a month in payments, then working for Zemmour’s campaign he pulled in another €32,700 for a variety of services including television appearances and organizing rallies. Throughout nearly that whole time, from 2017 to 2023, according to documents reviewed by Mediapart, Messiha was also drawing a salary from the Ministry of Armed Forces at an estimated €6,000 a month.

    What was he doing for the ministry in between television appearances warning about the Islamization of the country and the forced replacement of the country’s white, Christian ethnic stock?

    Nobody could say for sure, though he remained listed on the ministry’s internal staff directory and had an official government email address. Messiha denied Mediapart’s entire report and sued them for defamation. A trial will take place in Paris in November.

    Now Messiha views Zemmour’s Reconquête as the future of the French right. But the dramatic betrayal of Zemmour over the past couple of days — led by Le Pen’s niece Marion Maréchal — makes that look less likely now, with all of the party’s MEP’s defecting back to Rassemblement National. Zemmour kicked them out of the party and said he was “disgusted and hurt by the betrayal” — but still held the door open to alliances with Le Pen’s party, Les Républicains, and “all other parties of good faith who want to defeat Macron and the Islamo-leftists.” He also pointed a finger at the behavior of the “clan” around Maréchal as part of the reason for the crack up, referring to Marion as “Maréchal Le Pen.”
    Leggeri — a Heavy Proposition

    The Rassemblement National announced Fabrice Leggeri as a candidate early on in its EU election campaign, as a show of its strength. Now, after coasting to an easy election, Leggeri will be one of the party’s official spokesmen for the parliamentary elections at the end of June.

    Leggeri has his own long and successful career in the French civil service, and that trajectory reached its apogee in the seven years he served as the director of the European Union’s border control agency Frontex. Frontex is the EU’s first uniformed branch, with over two thousand employees and a budget at just under a billion euros a year. It’s the EU’s largest agency, and the first one to carry firearms.

    Leggeri came to Frontex with decades of experience enforcing border controls for the French government. In the French Ministry of Interior he headed up everything from digitizing passports to handling “irregular migration” by combating fraud and organizing deportations.

    Leggeri also accumulated experience at the European Commission level in the early 2000s, when he was a national expert for the commission from 2000 to 2003. There, he contributed to a document that recommended the formation of a Europe-wide border control agency. The recommendations of that document were adopted by the commission and led to the formation of Frontex.

    Leggeri left the agency in 2022 under a cloud of controversy after reports from Der Spiegel and Lighthouse Reports revealed that the agency had been complicit in illegally pushing migrants back out into the Mediterranean. Those allegations led to an investigation by the European Anti-Fraud Office, which found that Frontex cofunded Greece’s coast guard forces responsible for pushing migrants back out into the Aegean Sea often in inflatable rafts with motors, that Frontex was aware of the pushbacks, that the executive management of the agency concealed cases from its own officers to prevent them from investigating, and that Frontex even withdrew aerial surveillance so the operations couldn’t be documented.

    The report also found that Leggeri “actively resisted” hiring forty human rights agents, which European regulations required that the agency have (all while pushing to balloon the agency’s staff to ten thousand strong by 2027).

    After Leggeri stepped down from the agency in June 2022, he went back to the Ministry of Interior, where he had a vague position as an “executive project manager” before taking an “unpaid leave of absence from the French State administration,” according to his LinkedIn page.

    The location Leggeri listed for that leave gave some clue about his future plans — the Brussels Metropolitan Area. And right after he left Frontex, he was seen at the European Parliament in Strasbourg with deputies from both Les Républicains and the Rassemblement National.

    With the Gaullist center-right polling much lower than the “national” camp, Le Pen’s party was a much safer choice for Leggeri to guarantee him a seat.

    “We have to fight against being drowned by migration, a challenge which the European Commission and the Eurocrats minimize,” Leggeri said when he announced his candidacy in February. “My experience at Frontex confirms this reality.” Music to Le Pen’s ears.

    “It’s very interesting to have somebody from the inside . . . who’s proof of what we’ve been saying for a long time,” Le Pen said in reaction to Leggeri’s announcement.
    A Civilizational War

    Leggeri’s remarks backed up a common concern among the Horaces, who believe that the fight against immigration is a battle in a civilizational war that threatens to overwhelm Europe.

    “For those who we might encounter that are hesitating, let’s not forget to remind them that there are some ten million people in an assault base on the other side of the Mediterranean,” the creator of the group André Rougé told them in 2017.

    As a Rassemblement National candidate Leggeri adopted the same rhetoric, claiming that the European Commission doesn’t view “migratory submersion” as a threat, “but more as a project.”

    “I can testify to that,” he said, claiming that by contrast Le Pen’s party is “determined to fight” the commission’s plot, which they argue is furthered by last month’s adoption of the Pact on Migration and Asylum.

    “As a senior civil servant, I served the state with honor, but I’ve also seen the limits that of political decisions, which lead to failure,” Leggeri said in February. “Faced with this, I’m choosing to become politically involved to defend the public interest and that of France.”

    Leggeri and all those who’ve long wished for Le Pen to come to power suddenly see their deepest wishes coming true. Macron, that prince of chaos, has thrust France headlong into the next stage of its history.

    For the Horaces, all the better.

    #France #Europe #élections #administration #fascisme #élites #Frontex

  • What New Yorkers Can Learn From London’s Congestion Pricing

    Wann kommt die Anti-Stau-Maut für Berlin?

    16.6.2024 by Gareth Dennis -New York’s governor is refusing to implement congestion pricing out of fear of alienating businesses and suburban voters. But in London, tying congestion pricing to a massive expansion of public transit has built enduring cross-class support for it.

    At the start of June, New York governor Kathy Hochul made an about-turn on the promised congestion pricing scheme that had been intended for rollout later the same month, delaying it “indefinitely.” Despite the hard-won agreement of city officials, residents, and business groups, she cited the vulnerability of New York businesses as a reason for her reversal.

    Perhaps more than any other congestion pricing plan, New York’s “congestion relief zone” would have directly tied toll revenues to improvements to the suburban reaches of its mass transit systems. Indeed, the funding arrangements for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) have placed an increasing burden on state authorities. This has lent urgency to calls to get the program ready for its June launch.

    Hochul’s U-turn will significantly set back the cause of improving air quality and urban space in New York, losing a moment of political consensus that will be challenging to replicate. More pressingly, it leaves a billion-dollar-plus hole in the MTA’s annual budget as aging trains and infrastructure hit reliability and capacity limits. Hochul suggested following questioning that a levy on New York City businesses could make up the shortfall – businesses that she had just claimed would be hard-hit by the congestion charge. It is reasonable to assume, with the November election approaching fast, that her decision was largely motivated by electoral considerations, rather than any practical need for delay.

    Her decision is made even more indefensible by the fact that the arguments against congestion pricing rely on mistaken assumptions. Opponents of congestion pricing often fixate on the potentially regressive impacts it will have on low-income city dwellers. Hochul herself implored New Yorkers to “be real: A $15 charge may not seem like a lot to someone who has the means, but it can break the budget of a hard-working middle-class household.” But this claim is itself out of touch with reality. Across most of the world, car ownership generally correlates with higher income. This is true in the UK, where less than half of households own cars, but also in New York, where the average income of households with vehicles is almost twice that of those without.

    New York is far from the first city to realize that restricting car traffic requires active controls. Back in 1975, Singapore became the first city to introduce congestion pricing. But by the turn of the millennium, the city was joined by four others: London, Stockholm, Milan, and Gothenburg. In each case, charges have succeeded in reducing congestion as well as pollution and the average cost of cross-city travel.

    Despite the success of these schemes in other cities, congestion pricing remains deeply contentious in New York. Why? London’s regime of congestion pricing, introduced by the left-wing Labour Party major Ken Livingstone in 2003, offers some answers to these questions. There, congestion pricing helped to make the city more livable, but only in combination with a broad wave of reforms aimed at expanding the size of the city and making urban centers accessible to all inhabitants.

    Study after study has shown that congestion pricing alone is a blunt tool when attempting to deal with overcrowded roads. A 2022 Lund University analysis of this topic found that, while some measures are significantly more effective than others at targeting congestion, none can stand alone. Congestion pricing can only be effectively deployed as part of a systemic, strategic approach to considering urban mobility for both people and commerce.

    London’s congestion charge, which has been in place for over two decades, was not introduced in isolation. The charge coincided with a massive expansion of public service infrastructure. In 2003, improvements and extensions to the Underground and Docklands Light Railway were paired with enhancements to bus services across the Greater London area. Traffic-calming measures within the city center — narrower streets, chicanes, and additional bus lanes – also applied a downward pressure on the average speed of private vehicles. Oyster, London’s pay-as-you-go smart card system, was also introduced in 2003, shortly after the congestion charge, making it much easier for commuters to integrate journeys using public transit.

    These changes have led directly to the shift of commuters away from cars. In 2000, around half of journeys were made by private car. Today, the figure is close to one-third. Perhaps most importantly, around a third of trips are now made on foot, a likely effect of quieter and more pedestrian-friendly roads.

    All of these changes were coordinated through the city’s devolved body Transport for London (TfL), under the jurisdiction of the capital’s elected mayor. More than any other authority in the UK, including the national government, TfL chooses to take a long-term, strategic view, completing ambitious infrastructure projects like the recent Elizabeth Line connecting the city’s core and suburbs. TfL regularly announces its future plans, which can be viewed online as a mapped vision of the future network that will change the spatial layout of the city.

    Given that London’s public transit system has made the city more livable for its residents, rich and poor, what should be made of Hochul’s supposed reasoning for withdrawing from NYC’s scheme? Despite the flimsiness of Hochul’s case against congestion pricing, it is true that without reform to the MTA congestion pricing would have been limited in its ability to improve the lives of average New Yorkers. But other claims, such as that congestion charging will have a negative impact on business, a refrain often repeated by critics, rely on circular reasoning. It is because we have built our urban environments over the last hundred years to prioritize private car traffic above all else that changes to the way we move around in cities are potentially harmful to workers. But these criticisms do point to the limitations of the plans that Hochul ended up rejecting at the last minute.

    Congestion pricing alone will do little to counteract the fact that many people’s jobs rely on inefficient private transit. The benefits of congestion pricing can only really be unlocked through investment in changes to the urban layout of cities and expansion of other forms of public transit — a systemic view has to be taken. But London shows that achieving this aim is not impossible and that these reforms, once implemented, create a deep-seated sense of investment in local government and public transit.

    Thanks to the perceived poor state of the alternatives to driving, congestion pricing remains broadly unpopular among residents of New York’s suburbs, with recent polling suggesting as much as two-thirds of people are against it. London shows how to overcome this: politicians must be bold. When it comes to proven but potentially unpopular changes, trials and pilots are far superior to consultations, which can be slow, expensive, and vulnerable to hijacking by opposition groups. People, rich and poor, quickly become used to the benefits that expanded public transit and well-designed traffic-reduction measures unlock, and within a remarkably short time will fight to retain them.

    In London, only a small minority of reactionaries would now reverse the congestion charge, which has contributed to a significant shift away from private car traffic in favor of walking, cycling, and public transit. Central London is a happier, healthier, safer place to be for everyone as a result of the charge. At the same time, the outer reaches of London continue to be better fed by public transit, with the success of the newly built Elizabeth Line allowing plans for further new infrastructure to be accelerated. As part of the total-system improvement in sustainable mobility across London, congestion charging combined with investment in transit has helped to create a cross-class coalition in favor of maintaining public infrastructure. This could also happen in New York.

    #Verkehr #New_York #London

  • Nepal’s Hindutva Moment

    Le fascisme religieux menace le statut laïque de du Nepal.

    16.6.2024 by Shubhanga Pandey - For over a decade, Nepal has declared itself a secular republic. Now militant Hindu nationalists are trying to undermine this by escalating local tensions into sectarian battles.

    A little over a decade after Nepal declared itself a secular republic, religious identity threatens to emerge as a new axis of polarization in the politics of the former Hindu kingdom. A string of incidents that transpired over the past year have rudely awakened many in Nepal — including its complacent public sphere — of the inroads made by activist networks of militant Hindu nationalists, particularly in towns close to Nepal’s long border with India.

    In August of last year, clips of a group publicly feasting on beef in Dharan, a city in eastern Nepal, gathered much national outrage, as eating bovine meat is largely taboo in the country and oxen slaughter remains illegal. This rabble-rousing tactic of activists, who were opposed to this law, triggered swift street mobilization by several Hindu groups in protest, who linked this incident to an already existing controversy in the city involving the setting up of a church opposite a Hindu temple. However, the potentially violent confrontation was foiled after the local administration temporarily restrained the protesters’ movement. Dharan remained on edge for weeks, with its diverse political and social landscape suddenly recast as a religious battlefield.

    Malangawa, a town close to the Indian border and about 150 miles west of Dharan, was also forced to shut down several times in September last year to avoid violent standoff between its majority Hindus and minority Muslims. Preexisting differences between the two over the passage of Hindu ritual processions through the town’s Muslim neighborhoods allowed the Hindu Samrat Sena, a small Hindu nationalist outfit, to violently protest and ramp up “communal” tensions — a South Asianism for interreligious or interethnic strife — in the town.

    A month later, local administration in Nepalgunj, another city near the border, imposed a curfew to dissipate escalating tensions between Hindus and Muslims after violent protests, triggered by a social media post, took over the streets. Taking notice of these developments, security agencies briefed the government on orchestrated campaigns to stoke further interreligious violence. In November of last year, the government indeed instrumentalized these developments to impose a ban on TikTok; among the reasons provided was its use for “the disruption of social harmony.”

    Such efforts to escalate local tensions into sectarian battles — pitting the supposedly beleaguered Hindu majority against its many enemies — have become frequent in Nepal, particularly in towns dotting the Madhesh region, the country’s southern strip above India. For a growing number of politically ambitious groups and individuals, the explosion of Hindu supremacist politics in the southern neighborhood has offered a working model for popular mobilization. Some of this is seen in efforts to capture conservative resentment against the secular and republican turns Nepal took in the late 2000s, following the end of the decade-long Maoist insurgency. The country’s small but vocal networks of Hindu nationalists, however, have been eyeing a much larger pool of potential support.

    Over the past decade, a series of constitutional crises, internecine coalitions, and corruption scandals have left a severe dent in the popularity of the country’s major political parties. Among the several forces jostling to fill this vacuum are Hindu nationalists, who hope to capitalize on growing resentment against the political mainstream. With some welcome support from like-minded institutions across the border in India, they seek to give a distinctly sectarian shape to the collective discontents of a Hindu-majority electorate. Recent disturbances may, therefore, mark the early success of the project.
    The Many Meanings of Secularism

    A curious aspect of some of the rhetoric on Nepal’s religious questions — from both the supporters and opponents of the cow-slaughter ban, for example — is how the same constitutional provision has been deployed to make opposite claims. Nepal’s constitution includes a paradoxical definition of “secularism,” which it defines both as the protection of religious tradition carried from time immemorial and the entitlement to religious and cultural freedoms. For many of Nepal’s Hindu conservatives, the former definition is an unambiguous endorsement of such norms as the traditional Indic proscription against beef. Those against the ban argue that among the constitution’s chief achievement is an acknowledgement of indigenous or minority culture and practices, which for them should include oxen slaughter and consumption.

    The confusion can be traced to the contentious making of the 2015 constitution, written by an elected assembly after seven years of deliberations at the close of the Maoist insurgency. Initially demanded by the Maoist rebels when the insurgency began in the early 1990s, the constituent assembly became the centerpiece of the negotiated settlement between them and Nepal’s traditional parliamentary parties, chiefly the liberal Nepali Congress, and the leftist United Marxist Leninist Party. Nepal’s monarchy was a natural casualty of this convergence, given that then king Gyanendra Shah had prosecuted a war against the Maoist insurgents and persecuted Nepal’s democratic parties by imposing an autocratic regime.

    Having wrenched away the reins of government from the king on the back of a popular movement in 2006, the two forces also dominated the legislatures that within a few years declared Nepal a secular state and dissolved the monarchy, which for over two centuries symbolized the relationship between the Hindu religion and state power. These decisions were reaffirmed in 2015, when Nepal’s newly promulgated constitution, drafted by a body dominated by the same mix of former Maoist rebels and parliamentary forces, defined the country as a secular republican state.

    Yet this rhetoric of a clean break between a Hindu past and a secular present masked many social and political tensions, and radically different understandings of this transition. For the Maoists, often accused of having lost all radical edge, secularism was among the few symbols they could show their constituents as signs of their success, given their absorption into existing parliamentary tradition and the market economy.

    To progressive sections of Nepal’s major parties, secularism signified a welcome formalization of a long-standing, if imperfect, tradition of religious tolerance. Among the conservative ranks of the same parties, secularism was a necessary evil, an unfortunate compromise with the insurgents and their left-wing supporters that could not be forestalled. Finally, for the numerically weaker and discredited Hindu nationalist parties, which had once supported the royal regime, it provided a useful agenda for projecting themselves as permanent and principled opposition in the new political dispensation.

    Among the general population, responses to the swift end of the state’s Hindu identity have generally mirrored these diverse political divisions. But even those bemoaning this change — unhappy that the question was not put to a referendum — carry prior political loyalties that cut across the party lines. A Hindu political consolidation has also been discouraged by the fact that the constitutional principle of secularism has seen minimal deployment in practice. The ban against cow slaughter remains in the books, as does the Nepali state’s traditional patronage for certain Hindu institutions and rituals. As a result, opposition to the secular turn has so far not inspired a mass mobilization of any serious scale.

    Since 2015, however, owing to a number of domestic and external factors, murmurs of dissatisfaction have started to gather political strength. It is in this context — of unresolved contradiction between the symbolic achievement of secularism and its unclear material implications — that recent attempts at sectarian mobilization are being played out in Nepal.
    Domestic Difficulties

    So what changed? A big part of the answer lies in how Nepal’s politics have evolved over the past decade. To a large degree, it was the political capital of the postwar peace process, including the promise of a new constitutional order, that moderated many of the skeptics when the postrevolution legislature first declared Nepal secular in 2007. Given the recent memory of an autocratic king, Hinduism as a state religion faced additional problems due to its close association with the monarchy. Since 2015, however, as the constitution of the new federal secular republic came into effect, Nepal has faced persistent political troubles. Six governments have changed places since then, with the prime ministerial seat rotating between three leaders who have on average spent sixteen months in power.

    This period has been dotted by constitutional crises and parliamentary suspensions, dragging the president and the chief justice into its ambit. The country’s experiments with federalism are under a similar pall of suspicion, as provincial governments mimic the center’s unsteady coalition politics. At the same time, investigative journalists have exposed abuses of authority at the highest levels, and a former home minister has been implicated in an extortion racket that promised some Nepalis resettlement in the United States under the guise of being Bhutanese refugees.

    Unsurprisingly, the electorate is beginning to show signs of disaffection. One immediate result has been electoral. Unable to find real alternatives within Nepal’s three major political parties, who have all formed coalitions with one another, Nepalis elected several independent and conservative candidates in recent polls. But the rallying around these populist, antiestablishment types shows that a more ideological transformation is underway.

    More Nepalis are increasingly identifying all ills of political, social, and economic life with the new political order that followed the end of the Maoist insurgency and the democratic movement of 2006. This is particularly true of Nepal’s young voters, many of whom have no real political memory of the years of civil conflict and the royal regime, and who are keenly observant of the global trend toward charismatic nationalism. In effect, every fresh instance of political distress is now likely to be read as a failure of the secular republican system.

    If Nepal’s dominant parties have clearly failed in practical politics, they have been even less successful in the realm of ideas. As the authors of the constitution, they have offered no clarity on its ambiguously worded provisions on secularism. On the larger questions about how a secular state negotiates a religious society — the legitimate debates about the relationship between religion, ritual, identity, and public life — they have refused any engagement, except to blandly state that secularism is an important gain of the new republic.

    At the same time, they have been unable to resist the temptations of what in India is often referred to as “soft Hindutva.” This involves making concessions to, or adopting rhetoric appealing to, the majoritarian politics of Hindu nationalism. In 2020, for instance, Nepal’s then prime minister, K. P. Sharma Oli, claimed that Lord Rama, one of the most important Hindu deities, was born in Nepal, and the country’s archaeological department hinted at possible excavations of the area suggested by him. Claims about the birthplace of Lord Rama, or Ram Janmabhoomi, have been at the root of Hindu nationalist politics in northern India, which recently culminated in the inauguration of the temple in Ayodhya by Indian prime minister Narendra Modi.

    Similarly, Nepali Congress has been vigorously reengineering its relations in India, replacing its Congress-centric connections with the more powerful network of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) politicians. Pushpa Kamal Dahal, the current prime minister, was criticized by many for donning a saffron robe and sacred thread, Hindu ritual attire, as he offered prayers in a Hindu temple during his diplomatic trip to India in 2023. While he defended his antics as cultural diplomacy, this radical transformation of the former supreme commander of Maoist guerrilla rebels was not lost on many. Most recently, the new Ram temple was welcomed by Nepal’s foreign minister, N. P. Saud. Few operating in Nepal’s political sphere, it seems, can easily ignore the pull of the Hindutva winds blowing from the south.
    Beyond the Borders

    International aspects of this sectarian development are hard to miss. On the supply side, under the Bharatiya Janata Party government, Indian state and nonstate actors have made several overtures in Nepal to cultivate pro-Hindutva constituencies among important political and social circles. The growing pitch of Hindu nationalist voices in Nepal closely tracks with the political success of Hindutva in India since 2014, a timeline that nearly coincides with the institutionalization of Nepal’s new constitutional order.

    To be sure, criticism of the secular turn in Nepal preceded the rise of Narendra Modi in India. The main political face of this was the royalist Rastriya Prajatantra Party (RPP), a small conservative party which has over the past decade tried its best to expand anti-secular and pro-monarchy constituencies across the country, with only limited success. Notably, this bloc’s emphasis on recovering Hindu monarchy is somewhat distinct from the modern fascistic ideology of Hindu supremacy and Islamophobia that characterizes Hindutva politics in India. By contrast, recent mobilizations in Nepal against Muslims and cow slaughter were led by networks of recently formed militant outfits whose slogans and propaganda are difficult to tell apart from that of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the paramilitary group serving as the chief organizational front of Hindu nationalism in India.

    This is only one among many signs of the Indian footprint in Nepal’s new Hindu nationalism. Senior leaders of India’s ruling party have on multiple occasions made clear their preference for a Hindu Nepal. While the Indian government has taken no public stance on the matter, many observers argue that the 2015 Indian blockade against Nepal, which began days after the constitution was promulgated, was a sign of the BJP government’s disapproval of its secular character. One recent report by the US Department of State cited civil society leaders who noted that “influence from India’s ruling party, the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and other Hindu groups in India continued to pressure politicians in Nepal, particularly the RPP, to support reversion to a Hindu state.” Some observers have also read the increased sectarian activity in the borderlands in relation to the BJP and its ideological constituents’ political campaigns in the lead-up to India’s recently concluded parliamentary elections. But given that the party faced its most serious electoral setbacks in two of the states bordering Nepal — Uttar Pradesh and Bihar — it remains to be seen if this implies any change in past trends.

    The other remarkable aspect of this evolving Hindutva transnationalism is the role of nonstate actors. The most visible examples are the various branches or affiliates of the RSS that have opened up in the towns of the Madhesh plains, as well as in cities across the country. According to one insider, in 2015, Nepal had the largest number of RSS shakhas (branches) outside of India. In recent years, they have been particularly active in organizing and training school students. This development has been supplemented by formation of new, informal outfits that have adopted the militant style of Hindutva supremacist groups in India.

    The concentration of such groups in the politically marginalized southern plains has led some analysts to compare their rise to the spurt in pro-autonomy, even secessionist, political militancy in the same region in the late 2000s. Between the end of the Maoist insurgency in 2006 and the passage of the new constitution in 2015, Madhesh became the center of vibrant — sometimes violent — political movements in favor of federalism, affirmative action, political inclusion, and equal access to citizenship. A number of political parties emerged from these movements. But the recent decline in their electoral fortunes has paralleled the uptick in sectarian mobilization in areas of their past influence. This might not be a coincidence. Having seen the failures of the politics of regional and ethnic identity, some young Madhesis seem to have found the Hindutva model of the neighboring Indian states much more appealing.

    Composed largely of young men, these groups also share their Indian counterparts’ interest in creating hierarchies of citizenship, with Muslims and Christians as suspect members of the national community. Identification of these common enemies is particularly important for cross-border Hindutva activists who hope to transcend the anti-Indian strain that remains a powerful element of Nepali cultural nationalism. Recent tensions regarding beef eating, confrontations with the Muslim community, and anti-Christian mobilizations — marking a distinctly new phase in Nepal’s Hindu nationalism — must be seen in this regional context.

    There is another curious international dimension to these developments: changing popular perceptions about the West. Often mediated through foreign aid and the nonprofit economy, relations with capitals in Europe and North America have become increasingly associated with activities of Christian missionaries who dabble in religious conversions alongside humanitarian activity across Nepal. Over the past two decades, missionary-led conversions by many Nepalis from the economic underclass — largely belonging to the indigenous communities and the formerly untouchable Dalit caste — have frequently made news in both domestic and international media. At a little over half a million, Christians make up less than 2 percent of the country’s population. But these developments, aided by a concerted stoking of demographic anxieties by sectarian activists, have induced a clear ideological hardening among many against the country’s secular transition.

    Nepal’s laws guarantee the right to religion, but they prohibit religious proselytization, a distinction that is unclear even on paper. As a result, the prohibition is largely ignored in practice, even if some missionaries have in the past faced prosecution. The former reinforces the Hindu nationalists’ worries about cultural intervention by the West, while the latter generates more criticism from Western governments and human rights groups about Nepal’s confused stance on religious freedom.

    For many advocates of a return to the Hindu state, therefore, the passage to secularism was not an autonomous domestic decision but a move engineered by the Christian West, as part of its geopolitical calculations in a strategically useful site in Asia. This view of Nepali secularism as a Western imposition, enabled by a pliant political elite, is an important part of a populist reinterpretation of geopolitics in Nepal. This impression is further strengthened by the occasional critical observations on the state of religious freedoms in Nepal by Western governments or human rights groups headquartered in the West. The US Department of State’s routine report on religious freedoms, for example, made news in Nepal for not just noting the challenges faced by its religious minorities, but for also implying there are Hindu nationalist pressures from India on political actors in Nepal.
    In the Balance

    There are reasons to be sanguine about the future of secular politics in Nepal. For one, votaries of Hindu nationalism in Nepal have not yet found a political force that truly meets their desires. Individuals and groups interested in polarization around the religion question have the ability to temporarily disrupt public life and broadcast their agenda. But divided across geographical, social, and ethnic lines, they have shown little indication of convergence around a strategy.

    Instead, we find the cause for a Hindu Nepali nation most frequently being taken up by political entrepreneurs hoping to take advantage of a public disenchantment with the political mainstream and its rhetoric of ethnoreligious inclusion and secularism. Another important fact is that Nepal’s permanent state institutions — the bureaucracy and security forces in particular — have shown tact in handling recent incidents of religiously colored violence with relative impartiality.

    Yet the longer evolution of sectarian politics, once it enters the bloodstream of everyday life, is not easy to predict. This is partly a function of shifting forms of politicization of Nepali society. Not only is the new electorate finding its voice beyond the parties of the mainstream; they are also much less reliant on — if not hostile toward — the traditional infrastructure of political engagement, like the media, civil society, trade unions, academia, and public intellectuals. The digital-first nature of sectarian mobilization makes some of these older stopgaps even less effective.

    Given the loss of past certainties about political management, the success or failure of Hindu nationalism in Nepal to some extent depends on the revival of conversations about the place of religion in public life. What does it mean to maintain a religiously inspired law as tradition in a secular republic? How might the freedom of religious practice coexist alongside a ban on religious persuasion? These questions remain unaddressed, and the big three parties have so far followed a strategy of either silence or gradual appeasement of the majoritarian impulses.

    The fate of Nepali Hindutva equally rests on how its activists resolve a certain ideological discord. By tying their pro-Hindu state position to a pro-monarchy one, political entrepreneurs of Nepal’s traditional Hindu right have so far limited the potential appeal of their agenda. This is particularly so because even that traditional defender of the faith, the former king, has shown no interest in resuming his past role. Meanwhile, less enamored of the institution of monarchy than past generations, Nepal’s young Hindutva militants appear more comfortable imagining a Hindu republic. Ultimately, the answer to Nepal’s secularism question will depend on how far the Hindu nationalists succeed in drawing the national majority into the folds of its newfound faith.

    #Nepal #hindoutva

  • In Finland, the Left Alliance Just Trounced the Far Right


    Far-right parties are currently in power in Finland and Sweden, working with the traditional right and influencing politics. Voters have actually seen what they do when they win power. In Finland, they have betrayed almost all of the electoral promises they campaigned on. The economic policies they implement are exactly the same as, or even worse than, the traditional right-wing parties. We have seen historic cuts in income and social security for many low-income earners, and historic attacks against trade unions and workers’ rights.

    Throughout our campaign, our message to voters was that we needed to make sure this same type of political shift doesn’t happen on the European level. And so, because voters know what it means when the far right and the traditional right work together, they abandoned the far right. The Finns Party had a very bad election, and the Sweden Democrats also lost big.


  • Statement von Lehrenden an Berliner Universitäten

    "Als Lehrende der Berliner Hochschulen verpflichtet uns unser Selbstverständnis dazu, unsere Studierenden auf Augenhöhe zu begleiten, aber auch zu schützen und sie in keinem Fall Polizeigewalt auszuliefern.

    Unabhängig davon, ob wir mit den konkreten Forderungen des Protestcamps einverstanden sind, stellen wir uns vor unsere Studierenden und verteidigen ihr Recht auf friedlichen Protest, das auch die Besetzung von Uni-Gelände einschließt. Die Versammlungs- und Meinungsfreiheit sind grundlegende demokratische Rechte, die auch und gerade an Universitäten zu schützen sind. Angesichts der angekündigten Bombardierung Rafahs und der Verschärfung der humanitären Krise in Gaza sollte die Dringlichkeit des Anliegens der Protestierenden auch für jene nachvollziehbar sein, die nicht alle konkreten Forderungen teilen oder die gewählte Aktionsform für nicht geeignet halten.

    Es ist keine Voraussetzung für grundrechtlich geschützten Protest, dass er auf Dialog ausgerichtet ist. Umgekehrt gehört es unseres Erachtens zu den Pflichten der Universitätsleitung, solange wie nur möglich eine dialogische und gewaltfreie Lösung anzustreben. Diese Pflicht hat das Präsidium der FU Berlin verletzt, indem es das Protestcamp ohne ein vorangehendes Gesprächsangebot polizeilich räumen ließ. Das verfassungsmäßig geschützte Recht, sich friedlich zu versammeln, gilt unabhängig von der geäußerten Meinung. Die Versammlungsfreiheit beschränkt zudem nach der Rechtsprechung des Bundesverfassungsgerichts ("Fraport") das Hausrecht auch für Orte, die, wie wohl auch der Universitätscampus der FU Berlin, öffentlich zugänglich sind und vielfältigen, darunter öffentlichen Zwecken dienen.

    Wir fordern die Berliner Universitätsleitungen auf, von Polizeieinsätzen gegen ihre eigenen Studierenden ebenso wie von weiterer strafrechtlicher Verfolgung abzusehen. Der Dialog mit den Studierenden und der Schutz der Hochschulen als Räume der kritischen Öffentlichkeit sollte oberste Priorität haben - beides ist mit Polizeieinsätzen auf dem Campus unvereinbar. Nur durch Auseinandersetzung und Debatte werden wir als Lehrende und Universitäten unserem Auftrag gerecht."

    Possibility to sign and signatures here: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSfVy2D5Xy_DMiaMx2TsE7YediR6qifxoLDP1zIjKzEl9t1LWw/viewform

    #statement #protest_camp #police_violence #Berlin #university #FU #academia #Gaza #Germany

    • Großer Unmut über Brief von Berliner Dozenten zu Gaza-Krieg

      09.05.20249. Mai 2024

      Etwa 100 Lehrkräfte an Berliner Hochschulen haben sich in einem Brief hinter propalästinensische Demonstranten gestellt. Das löst eine breite Welle der Empörung aus.


      Bundesbildungsministerin Bettina Stark-Watzinger hat sich empört über eine Unterstützer-Erklärung von Berliner Hochschuldozenten für pro-palästinensische Proteste gezeigt. „Dieses Statement von Lehrenden an Berliner Universitäten macht fassungslos“, sagte Stark-Watzinger der „Bild“-Zeitung. Statt sich klar gegen Israel- und Judenhass zu stellen, würden „Uni-Besetzer zu Opfern gemacht und Gewalt verharmlost“. Dass es sich bei den Unterstützern der Proteste um Lehrende handele, sei „eine neue Qualität“, betonte die FDP-Politikerin. Gerade sie müssten „auf dem Boden des Grundgesetzes stehen“. Aus ihrer Sicht sei es „richtig, wenn Hochschulleitungen bei Antisemitismus und Gewalt schnell handeln und die Polizei einschalten“.

      Die deutsche Bildungsministerin Bettina Stark-Watzinger

      Am Mittwoch hatten Demonstrierende ein Protestcamp auf einem Hof der Freien Universität (FU) errichtet. Die Hochschule schaltete rasch die Polizei ein und ließ das Gelände räumen. Der Lehrbetrieb wurde für den Tag weitgehend eingestellt. Die Polizei bilanzierte am Mittwoch, es seien 79 Personen vorübergehend festgenommen worden, gegen sie gebe es Strafermittlungs- und Ordnungswidrigkeitsverfahren. Eine Gruppe mit dem Namen #Student_Coalition_Berlin forderte die Universitäten in Berlin unter anderem dazu auf, sich für eine Waffenruhe im Gazastreifen einzusetzen und Israel „akademisch und kulturell“ zu boykottieren.

      Die Gruppe hatte in der vergangenen Woche bereits zu einer Protestaktion an der Humboldt-Universität aufgerufen. Die Protestkundgebung am Freitag hatte einen Polizeieinsatz ausgelöst. Dabei war es laut Polizei auch zu „volksverhetzenden Aufrufen“ gekommen.

      Recht auf friedlichen Protest?

      In einer am Mittwoch online veröffentlichten Erklärung stellten sich rund 100 Dozenten verschiedener Berliner Hochschulen hinter die Proteste. „Unabhängig davon, ob wir mit den konkreten Forderungen des Protestcamps einverstanden sind, stellen wir uns vor unsere Studierenden und verteidigen ihr Recht auf friedlichen Protest, das auch die Besetzung von Uni-Gelände einschließt“, hieß es in dem „Statement von Lehrenden an Berliner Universitäten“.

      Berliner Polizisten tragen propalästinensische Demonstrierende vom Campus weg

      Zudem forderten die Lehrkräfte die Universitätsleitungen auf, „von Polizeieinsätzen gegen die eigenen Studierenden ebenso wie von weiterer strafrechtlicher Verfolgung abzusehen“. In der Erklärung wird die „Dringlichkeit des Anliegens der Protestierenden“ mit dem israelischen Vorgehen im Gazastreifen und der humanitäre Lage in dem Palästinensergebiet als „nachvollziehbar“ begründet. Der Angriff der militant-islamistischen Palästinenserorganisation Hamas, der den Krieg im Gazastreifen auslöste, sowie die verschleppten israelischen Geiseln werden darin hingegen nicht erwähnt. Die EU, die US, Deutschland und andere Länder stufen die Hamas als Terrororganisation ein.

      Heftige Kritik aus der Union

      Scharfe Kritik an dem Brief kam auch von Berlins Regierendem Bürgermeister Kai Wegner. „Für die Verfasser dieses Pamphlets habe ich überhaupt kein Verständnis“, sagte der CDU-Politiker der „Bild“-Zeitung. Die Berliner Universitäten seien und blieben „Orte des Wissens, des kritischen Diskurses und des offenen Austauschs“. „Antisemitismus und Israelhass sind aber keine Meinungsäußerungen, sondern Straftaten“, betonte Wegner. Er habe „volles Vertrauen“, dass die Berliner Polizei „gegen solche Straftaten auch weiterhin konsequent rechtsstaatlich“ vorgehe.

      Kai Wegner, Regierender Bürgermeister von Berlin

      Auch die stellvertretende Bundesvorsitzende der CDU, Karin Prien, zeigte sich empört. Sie sei „fassungslos, wie Wissenschaftlerinnen und Wissenschaftler auf das humanitäre Leid in Gaza verweisen, ohne die Geiseln der Hamas mit nur einer Silbe zu erwähnen“, erklärte sie.

      Unionfraktionsvize Andrea Lindholz bezeichnete den Brief als einen „Tiefpunkt für die deutsche Wissenschaft“. Sie habe „null Verständnis dafür, wenn Professoren und Dozenten einen Mob von Antisemiten und Israelhassern verteidigen“. Wissenschaft und Lehre mit Aktivismus zu verknüpfen, sei „brandgefährlich für die Hochschulen als Institutionen“, kritisierte die CSU-Innenpolitikerin.

      Der Präsident des Zentralrats der Juden in Deutschland, Josef Schuster, zeigte sich enttäuscht von den Unterzeichnern des Schreibens. Den Aktivisten gehe es „weniger um das Leid der Menschen in Gaza, sondern sie werden von ihrem Hass auf Israel und Juden angetrieben“, sagte er der „Bild“-Zeitung. „Gerade von Hochschuldozenten hätte ich erwartet, dass dies zumindest klar benannt wird, wenn sich schon für diese Form des Protestes eingesetzt wird.“

      Ruf nach freier Meinungsäußerung

      Der Botschafter der Palästinensischen Autonomiebehörde in Deutschland, Laith Arafeh, wies hingegen Kritik an den propalästinensischen Protesten zurück. Der Spielraum für freie Meinungsäußerung und die akademische Freiheit mit Blick auf Israel und den Gaza-Krieg gehe immer weiter zurück, sagte er der Deutschen Presse-Agentur. „Wir verurteilen alle Formen von Fanatismus einschließlich Antisemitismus“, so der Botschafter. „Genauso verurteilen wir den systematischen Einsatz falscher Antisemitismus-Vorwürfe gegen alle Stimmen, die ein Ende des Krieges fordern.“ Er beziehe keine Position zu den Studentenprotesten, weil das eine Einmischung in innere Angelegenheiten wäre, sagte der Diplomat. „Aber ich unterstütze jedermanns Recht auf freie Äußerung, jedermanns Meinungsfreiheit, überall, jederzeit.“


    • Erklärung von Vorstand und wissenschaftlichem Beirat der DAVO zur Kritik am Statement von Lehrenden der FU Berlin zum Vorgehen des Präsidiums der Universität gegenüber Protestierenden

      Mit großer Sorge und Bestürzung blicken der Vorstand und wissenschaftliche Beirat der „Deutschen Arbeitsgemeinschaft Vorderer Orient für gegenwartsbezogene Forschung und Dokumentation e.V. (DAVO)“ auf die aktuellen Verunglimpfungen von Lehrenden an Berliner Universitäten. Diese hatten in einem Statement die Hochschulleitung dafür kritisiert, dass sie auf eine Besetzung von Hochschulräumen unmittelbar mit polizeilicher Räumung reagiert und nicht zunächst den Dialog gesucht habe.

      Seit der Veröffentlichung des Statements, das mittlerweile mehr als 1300 Personen aus wissenschaftlichen Einrichtungen unterschrieben haben, sehen sich die Unterzeichnerinnen und Unterzeichner, zu denen auch mehrere DAVO-Mitglieder gehören, einer Diffamierungskampagne in den Medien ausgesetzt, die ihnen Judenfeindlichkeit und Terrorverharmlosung unterstellt. Sie spielen damit einer zunehmenden Wissenschaftsfeindlichkeit in die Hände und markieren einzelne Lehrende durch die Veröffentlichung ihrer Namen und Fotos als Zielscheibe von Angriffen. Mit besonderer Erschütterung nehmen wir zur Kenntnis, dass die Bundesministerin für Bildung und Forschung, Bettina Stark-Watzinger, anstatt sich hinter die Wissenschaftler*innen zu stellen, den Lehrenden ohne weitere Begründung vorwarf, nicht auf dem Boden des Grundgesetzes zu stehen.

      Die Berliner Lehrenden haben sich weder zu einer bestimmten Position im Nahostkonflikt bekannt noch sich gegenüber der israelischen Regierung oder gar dem Judentum in irgendeiner Weise positioniert, sondern lediglich die Berliner Universitätsleitungen aufgefordert, den Dialog mit den Studierenden zu suchen sowie die Hochschulen als Räume kritischer Auseinandersetzung und Debatte zu schützen. Unabhängig davon, ob man diese Position teilt, bewegt sie sich im Rahmen der grundgesetzlich geschützten Meinungsfreiheit. Sie fordert ein, sich auf die in der aktuellen Situation dringend nötige Rolle wissenschaftlicher Institutionen als Diskursräume zu besinnen.

      Der Vorstand und der wissenschaftliche Beirat der Deutschen Arbeitsgemeinschaft Vorderer Orient stellen sich hinter die Berliner Lehrenden und ihr Recht auf freie Meinungsäußerung und weisen deren unsubstantiierte Verunglimpfung als grundgesetzfeindlich und antisemitisch entschieden zurück. Sie bekennen sich zur Wissenschaftsfreiheit und zu dem Ziel, an den Hochschulen Räume für kritische Debatten gerade auch zu schwierigen und konfliktbehafteten Themen zu öffnen, anstatt sie zu verengen. Sie wenden sich zudem gegen die pauschale Diskreditierung ganzer Fächer, denen es auch weiterhin möglich sein muss, fundierte und differenzierte Expertise zum Nahostkonflikt in die öffentlichen Debatten einzubringen. Dies gehört zu den Kernaufgaben von Universitäten und Forschungseinrichtungen.

      Vorstand und wissenschaftlicher Beirat der „Deutschen Arbeitsgemeinschaft Vorderer Orient für gegenwartsbezogene Forschung und Dokumentation e.V. (DAVO)“:

      Dr. Silvana Becher-Çelik (Mainz)
      Dr. Philipp Bruckmayr (Freiburg)
      Prof. Dr. Thomas Demmelhuber (Erlangen)
      Prof. Dr. Georg Glasze (Erlangen)
      Prof. Dr. Aymon Kreil (Ghent)
      Prof. Dr. Günter Meyer (Mainz)
      Prof. Dr. Johanna Pink (Freiburg)
      Prof. Dr. Irene Schneider (Göttingen)
      Prof. Dr. Udo Steinbach (Berlin)


    • Stellungnahme der DGS zu Mediendarstellungen von Akademiker:innen im Rahmen politischer Proteste zum Israel-Gaza-Konflikt
      München, 13. Mai 2024

      Im Rahmen des aktuellen Kriegs Israels in Gaza, der auf den antisemitischen Terror der Hamas vom 7.10.2023 reagiert, finden weltweit und so auch in Deutschland Proteste u.a. an Universitäten statt. Nachdem in Berlin (wie anderswo) die Proteste Anfang Mai 2024 zum Teil von der Polizei aufgelöst wurden, haben Hunderte Lehrende an (insbes. Berliner) Universitäten einen offenen Brief unterzeichnet, in dem sie das Vorgehen gegen die (›pro-palästinensischen‹) Proteste kritisieren und die Universitätsleitungen dazu aufrufen, auf Dialog statt polizeiliche und juristische Maßnahmen zu setzen. Dieser Brief ist in den Medien sowie der Politik breit und intensiv diskutiert worden – im Sinne einer lebendigen pluralen Demokratie zu Recht. Allerdings hat sich im Anschluss eine regelrechte Medienkampagne entwickelt, die wir als wissenschaftlicher Fachverband inakzeptabel finden. Dagegen wenden wir uns.

      Wir verurteilen mit dieser Stellungnahme die mediale Diffamierung und personalisierte, pauschale Verurteilung von Lehrenden, darunter auch Soziolog:innen. Es ist zutiefst beunruhigend, dass in einer aktuellen Kampagne (insbesondere BILD vom 10.05.2024) Wissenschaftler:innen – darunter auch jüdische und renommierte Forscher:innen zum Nationalsozialismus, der Shoah und im Bereich des Antisemitismus – durch Massenmedien individuell angeprangert und (ausgerechnet) in Deutschland als ›Täter‹ (sic!) diffamiert werden. Es scheint, dass dabei bestimmte Disziplinen (so auch die Soziologie) und Forschungsfelder (etwa die Postcolonial Studies) als angeblich per se politisch und antisemitisch ins Visier genommen werden. Derartig pauschale, zum Teil klar falsche und diffamierende Darstellungen haben unter Umständen weitreichende forschungspolitische Folgen, vor denen wir warnen. Einer lebendigen politischen Debatte schaden derartige Kampagnen, sie vergiften das Diskussionsklima und haben verheerende Folgen für die Personen, die dabei an den medialen Pranger gestellt werden. Wir halten zudem die Rolle und Aussagen der Wissenschaftsministerin und der Staatssekretärin in diesem Zusammenhang für äußerst bedenklich: Per social media (8.5. auf der Plattform X) ›Lehrende‹ pauschal in die Nähe des Antisemitismus zu rücken, als gewaltverharmlosend zu bezeichnen und gegenüber der BILD-Zeitung durch Suggestion anzuzweifeln, dass sie ›auf dem Boden des Grundgesetzes stehen‹, ist politisch mindestens fragwürdig.

      Die Deutsche Gesellschaft für Soziologie (DGS) positioniert sich ausdrücklich nicht inhaltlich zu den aktuellen Protesten im Einzelnen und auch nicht zu den Forderungen des offenen Briefes. Die DGS verurteilt klar jeglichen Antisemitismus und jegliche gruppenbezogene Menschenfeindlichkeit; sie wirkt daraufhin, dass auch Hochschulen Orte sind, an denen alle Mitglieder – Studierende, Forschende, administratives und technisches Personal – im rechtlich legitimen Rahmen respektiert und gewaltfrei arbeiten und sich politisch auseinandersetzen können, ohne Diffamierungen oder Bedrohungen befürchten zu müssen.

      Prof. Dr. Paula-Irene Villa Braslavsky (Vorsitzende)
      München, 13.05.2024


    • Mediale Hetze gegen Wissenschaftler*innen und die Anstachelung durch Ministerin gefährdet die Wissenschaftsfreiheit!

      Stellungnahme der Vereinigung Demokratischer Juristinnen und Juristen (VDJ) vom 13. Mai 2024

      Die Vereinigung Demokratischer Juristinnen und Juristen (VDJ) verurteilt mediale Hetze und Polizeigewalt als Angriffe auf die Institution der Universität

      Als Demokratische Jurist*innen sind wir schockiert über die jüngsten Angriffe auf die Wissenschaft-, Meinungs- und Berufsfreiheit durch Regierungspolitiker*innen und einen großen Teil der Medien. Am 07. Mai hatten Studierende der Freien Universität Berlin ein Protestcamp auf dem Campus der Universität errichtet, um gegen die Beteiligung der Bundesrepublik im Krieg in Gaza zu demonstrieren. Die Leitung der Universität ließ das Camp von der Polizei räumen. Bilder von der Räumung dokumentieren das brutale Vorgehen der Polizei und die Verhöhnung der Studierenden durch die Uniformierten. Der Regierende Oberbürgermeister von Berlin, Kai Wegener, lobte das Vorgehen ausdrücklich.

      In Reaktion auf die Räumung verfassten Berliner Wissenschaftler*innen einen offenen Brief, dem sich mittlerweile weit mehr als 1.000 Lehrende angeschlossen haben. In dem Brief verurteilen sie die Räumung des Camps und die Art und Weise wie diese geschah. Sie mahnen einen Dialog auch mit abweichenden Positionen an. Der sofortige Einsatz der Polizei gegen den gewaltfreien Protest wird als unvereinbar mit der Institution der Universität betrachtet.

      Diesen offenen Brief nahm Bundeswissenschaftsministerin Stark-Watzinger zum Anlass, den Unterzeichnenden, die weder zu den inhaltlichen Forderungen der Studierenden noch zur Situation in Israel/Palästina Stellung bezogen hatten, die Verteidigung von Israelhass und Antisemitismus vorzuwerfen. Medienkonzerne, allen voran Springer, stellen einzelne Wissenschaftler*innen daraufhin an den Pranger und erklärten sie zu Befürworter*innen von Terror und Antisemitismus.

      Statt sich erkenntnisoffen und ehrlich mit dem Anliegen der Studierenden und insbesondere dem Inhalt des Schreibens der Wissenschaftler*innen auseinanderzusetzen, hat Stark-Watzinger mit vorschnell formulierten, schwersten Vorwürfen deren Stellung als Universitätsangehörige und Forschende beschädigt. Sie hat eine Stimmung angeheizt, in der die mediale Jagd auf einzelne Personen eröffnet wurde. Sollte es zu Übergriffen auf die Betroffenen kommen, trägt sie dafür auch persönliche Verantwortung. Statt durch eine ausgewogene Stellungnahme die Wogen zu glätten, hat sie sich bewusst in eine mediale Hetzkampagne einbinden lassen und die Institution der Universität, die auf offenem Austausch und Vertrauen beruht, nachhaltig beschädigt.

      Für uns als Demokratische Jurist*innen ist die Universität ein besonders geschützter Raum, durch den ein freier Diskurs – als Voraussetzung für neue Erkenntnis – erst ermöglicht wird. Diesen Schutzraum gewährt das Grundgesetz allen Universitätsangehörigen – auch den Studierenden. Sie sind nicht stille Konsument*innen von Bildungsangeboten, sondern essenzieller Bestandteil des Austauschs, der Prüfung und Festigung von Wissen. Dieser Austausch benötigt einen offenen Raum für Dissens. Es ist nicht Sache von Regierenden den Rahmen des Diskurses oder die Reichweite des Dissenses festzulegen. Bereits darin liegt ein schwerer Angriff auf die Wissenschaftsfreiheit, durch den der offene Erkenntnisprozess autoritär abgebrochen wird.

      Artikel 5 des Grundgesetzes gewährt die Wissenschafts- und Meinungsfreiheit als essenzielle Voraussetzungen einer freien und demokratischen Gesellschaft. Es ist mit dem Grundgesetz unvereinbar, Angehörige der Universität auf bestimmte Regierungspositionen festzulegen oder sie einem Bekenntniszwang auszusetzen. Der Staat kann seine Regierungsräson nicht zur Eintrittskarte für den wissenschaftlichen Diskurs machen. Das verletzt neben der Wissenschaftsfreiheit auch die Berufsfreiheit der Betroffenen.

      Als Demokratische Jurist*innen verurteilen wir zudem die zunehmende Brutalität polizeilicher Einsätze. Die Art, wie Universitätsangehörige verhöhnt wurden, ist ein Warnsignal für den Zustand der deutschen Polizei. Für uns stehen die beschriebenen Angriffe im Kontext einer Ausdehnung exekutiver Gewalt gegen die Zivilgesellschaft. Als Rechtsstaat definierte das Grimm‘sche Wörterbuch bereits vor 170 Jahren kurz und treffend ein „staatswesen, dessen zweck der rechtsschutz aller seiner bürger ist“. Diesen Schutz individueller Rechtsgüter müssen die Regierenden befördern und nicht gewaltsame polizeiliche Einsatzformen. Wer den Begriff des Rechtsstaats aufruft, kann damit niemals die Härte des Polizeiknüppels rechtfertigen.

      – Unsere Solidarität gilt allen Unterzeichnenden des „Statements von Dozierenden an Berliner Universitäten“
      – Wir verurteilen die mediale Hetze durch die Verantwortlichen in Politik und Medien
      – Wir verurteilen die Räumung des Protestcamps mittels Polizeigewalt
      – Als Demokratische Jurist*innen ist unser Ziel die Sicherung universitärer Freiheit


    • Pro-Palästina-Proteste in Berlin: Wer, wenn nicht Studierende – wo, wenn nicht an Universitäten?

      Der Krieg, den die israelische Regierung in Reaktion auf das Hamas-Massaker an israelischen Männern, Frauen und Kinder und angesichts der noch immer nicht befreiten Geiseln führt, ruft weltweit immer größere Kritik hervor.

      Dass nach mehr als 34.000 Toten, davon 13.000 Kinder, dem zusätzlich drohenden Verhungern eines Teils der palästinensischen Bevölkerung und der Zerstörung aller Universitäten in Gaza mit dem Tod tausender Kommilitoninnen und Kommilitonen auch an deutschen Universitäten protestiert wird, sollte niemanden verwundern. Die Angriffe der israelischen Armee auf Rafah und die Verzehnfachung deutscher Waffenexporte nach Israel in einer völkerrechtlich bedrohlichen Situation haben zudem eine neue Dringlichkeit für öffentliche Proteste hierzulande erzeugt.

      Dass Studierende auf Unrecht aufmerksam machen, hat Tradition. Wer, wenn nicht sie – wo, wenn nicht an Universitäten?

      Allerdings wird nun vor allem über das „wie“ der Proteste diskutiert statt über das „warum“. Dies hängt vor allem damit zusammen, dass zum Teil verbotene Slogans gerufen und der Boykott israelischer Institutionen gefordert wurde. Natürlich ist es nachvollziehbar, dies gerade in Deutschland abzuwehren.

      Zentral: Das Trauma des 7. Oktober in die Protestlogik aufnehmen

      Es ist eine unerträgliche Situation, wenn Plakate und Parolen bei jüdischen Studierenden die Angst auslösen, Israel solle von der Landkarte getilgt werden. Für die Legitimität der Proteste wäre es zentral, das Trauma des 7. Oktober und das Schutzbedürfnis der jüdischen und israelischen Studierenden, die sich auf dem Campus bedroht oder unsicher fühlen, in die Protestlogik aufzunehmen – und zwar bevor nächste Proteste stattfinden.

      Die verständliche Angst davor, dass sich hinter der scharfen Kritik an Israel nicht doch etwas anderes verbirgt – zumal antisemitische Straftaten weltweit angestiegen sind – darf jedoch nicht darin münden, die Proteste gegen Krieg und Besatzung vorauseilend zu sanktionieren.

      Es ist die Aufgabe von uns Lehrenden, hier gemeinsam mit den Studierenden Strategien zu durchdenken, die friedlichen Protestaktionen Raum geben und gleichzeitig die Latenz und Gefahr des Antisemitismus genauer im Blick haben. Dazu gehört aber auch, zu klären was nicht antisemitisch ist, gerade weil fast jedes Sprechen über den Konflikt so toxisch ist und das Begriffsarchiv des außerparlamentarischen Widerstands diskreditiert wirkt.

      Akute Belastung auch für palästinensische und arabische Studierende

      Auch für unsere palästinensischen und arabischen Studierenden gibt es eine akute Belastung, die wir als Lehrende adressieren müssen – vor allem, weil durch die enormen Todeszahlen in Gaza viele Studierende in Angst und Trauer um Angehörige sind. Das alles macht einen multipel verletzten Raum auf, der nicht einfach administrativ reguliert werden kann wie sonst. Wie unsere amerikanischen Kolleg*innen es bereits erfahren: Die Schwierigkeit für uns Lehrende ist aktuell, uns um die Sicherheit aller unserer Studenten zu kümmern, einschließlich der Demonstranten, von denen nicht wenige Juden sind.

      Neben der gerechtfertigten Kritik ist zu fragen, warum das menschenrechtliche und humanistische Anliegen der Proteste – gegen Krieg, Besatzung, Erniedrigung, Hunger und Tod – medial komplett untergeht. Die Studentinnen und Studenten sind mit aggressiven Vorwürfen konfrontiert, die in ihrer Radikalität folgenreich sind: Aus ihnen wird ein „Judenhassermob“ gemacht, der Israel auslöschen wolle und Terrorismus verherrliche – das kommt nicht nur von Seiten der Boulevardpresse.

      Es wäre wichtig für unsere demokratische Kultur verbal abzurüsten und den Studierenden die Fähigkeit zur Komplexität nicht von vorneherein abzusprechen.
      Naika Foroutan

      Dabei offenbart sich ein Unvermögen zu unterscheiden: zwischen jahrhundertealten und kontinuierlichen Ressentiments gegen Juden und der Kritik an einer in Teilen rechtsextremistischen israelischen Regierung und einer anhaltenden Besatzung. Wobei natürlich auch eine Kritik an der israelischen Regierung als „Umwegkommunikation“ für antisemitische Aussagen instrumentalisiert werden kann.

      Kritikfähigkeit der Studierenden stärken

      Es wäre wichtig für unsere demokratische Kultur hier verbal abzurüsten und den Studierenden die Fähigkeit zu dieser Komplexität nicht von vorneherein abzusprechen. Dort, wo sie offensichtlich fehlt, in Agitation umschlägt und von radikalisierenden Akteuren überschattet wird oder gar eine Straftat geschieht, muss dies verfolgt werden. Parallel wäre es die Aufgabe von uns Lehrenden, die Kritikfähigkeit so zu schärfen, dass dies aus den eigenen Reihen der Studierenden erkannt und unterbunden werden kann. Das muss eine gemeinsame Aufgabe sein.

      Daneben gibt es aber auch eine weitere Dimension: Mit dem Vorwurf des Antisemitismus werden aktuell weltweit Kultureinrichtungen und Universitäten diskreditiert. So wie auch andere Institutionen, die nach dem Zweiten Weltkrieg entstanden sind, um den gesellschaftlichen Zusammenhalt zu regulieren: die Vereinten Nationen, der Internationale Gerichtshof, das Rote Kreuz, Amnesty International etc.

      Diese Dimension ist umso wichtiger zu beachten, als die internationale Neue Rechte versucht, sich diesen Vorwurf zu Nutze zu machen. Ihr taktisches Ziel ist die Zerstörung des gesellschaftlichen Zusammenhalts – als Kernelement der Nachkriegsordnung und des wertebasierten Rechtssystems. Sie setzen dabei gezielt auf die emotionalen Reaktionen liberaler Akteure.

      Martin Sellner etwa, Vordenker der Identitären Bewegung, schrieb schon kurz nach dem 7. Oktober in der rechtsnationalen Zeitschrift Sezession: „Die radikalen Aussagen vieler Linksliberaler sind emotionale Dammbrüche, die das Denken und Sprechen in der BRD verändern können, wenn wir richtig mit ihnen umgehen“. Er bezog sich dabei auf Aussagen reichweitenstarker liberaler Akteure auf Social Media, die „Pauschalabschiebungen für Afroaraber forderten, weil sie Antisemiten seien“. Er schlägt weiter vor, den Schock des 07. Oktober und die einsetzende moralische Panik zu nutzen, um die Remigrationspläne der Neuen Rechten umzusetzen.

      Der Raum für Widerspruch wird eingeschränkt

      Weil zurecht niemand auf dem Vorwurf des Antisemitismus sitzen bleiben möchte, müssen Lehrende dafür einstehen, dass nicht reflexhaft und vorauseilend etablierte Verfahrenscodizes der offenen Gesellschaft aufgeopfert werden – die Polizei zum Räumen übergeht, noch bevor alle anderen regulierenden Maßnahmen ausgereizt wurden, Dialogbereitschaft negiert wird, noch bevor ein Dialogversuch unternommen wurde und Antisemitismus deklariert wird, sobald Begriffe wie Siedlerkolonialismus oder Apartheid fallen: Auch wenn man diese kritisch sieht, stellen sie analytische Kategorien dar, um die genau an Universitäten gestritten und gerungen werden muss.

      Parallel erfolgt eine Kriminalisierung palästinensischer Symbole wie die Kufiya oder die Palästinafahne, die medial zu antisemitischen Zeichen deklariert werden, wodurch der performative Raum für Widerspruch eingeschränkt wird. Schon das Palästinensertuch auf dem Campus wird somit zum subkutanen Angst-Symbol für jüdische Studierende. Welche Folgen hat das für ihr Zusammentreffen mit palästinensischen und arabischen Kommiliton*innen? Sind sie sich gegenseitig schon bedrohlich, bloß weil sie da sind?

      Konflikte sprachlich und intellektuell zu reflektieren – dafür sind Universitäten da.
      Naika Foroutan

      Abgesehen davon, dass Studierende einen Widerspruch zum propagierten Schutz der Meinungs- und Wissenschaftsfreiheit spüren, haben sie durch eine globalere biografische Vernetzung, technologische Versiertheit und soziale Medien Zugang zu einem internationalen Wissen, das nicht ausschließlich aus einer spezifisch bundesrepublikanischen Vergangenheit rührt.

      In den letzten Monaten aber haben viele Lehrende versucht, das Weltgeschehen um Israel und Palästina aus den Seminaren auszuklammern – aus Angst, dass es kontroverse Diskussionen geben könnte, mit antisemitischen oder rassistischen Untertönen. Es fällt auf, dass ein Sprechen über diesen Konflikt jahrelang gemieden wurde. Das Repertoire wirkt eingerostet und nicht mehr adäquat, um die Dynamik des Geschehens in Worte zu fassen. Das merkt man nicht nur den Slogans an. Konflikte sprachlich und intellektuell zu reflektieren – dafür sind Universitäten da.

      Die künstliche Stille könnte zu den lautstarken Gegenreaktionen der Studierenden beigetragen haben. Sie sind an unsere Universitäten gekommen, in dem Glauben, dass alle zentralen Probleme und Konflikte der Vergangenheit, Gegenwart und Zukunft genau hier besprochen werden können. Die Auseinandersetzung mit Begriffen und Gedanken, die gesellschaftlich, politisch, historisch problematisch sind, waren oder werden könnten, ist ein zentraler Bestandteil des Bildungsprozesses. Der nächste Schritt muss sein, den Nahost-Konflikt zu dialogisieren – statt ihn zu externalisieren. Er ist mitten unter uns.

      Als Dozent*innen haben wir ein Ethos: Wir sind in diesem Beruf, um zu lehren, um Fehler zu tolerieren und dann zu korrigieren und um sehr jungen Menschen, die zu uns kommen, den Weg in ihre Zukunft zu ebnen. Es bleibt das bedrückende Gefühl, dass wir als Lehrende versagt haben, wenn unsere Studierenden von der Polizei abgeführt werden.


      ping @cdb_77

    • GEW BERLIN verurteilt Diffamierung von Hochschulangehörigen

      Die GEW BERLIN verurteilt den diskriminierenden Umgang der BILD-Zeitung und von politischen Verantwortungsträger*innen mit öffentlichen Äußerungen zu Protesten im Zusammenhang mit dem Israel-Gaza-Konflikt.

      Martina Regulin, Vorsitzende GEW BERLIN: „Wir sind bestürzt darüber, dass Wissenschaftler*innen und andere Hochschulangehörige individuell angeprangert und als „Täter*innen“ diffamiert werden, nur weil sie sich in einer öffentlichen Erklärung für das Recht auf politischen Protest in Hochschulen einsetzen. Derartige Kampagnen heizen die politische Debatte in unsäglicher Weise an und sind Wasser auf die Mühlen radikaler Akteure in diesem Konflikt. Hochschulen müssen öffentliche und angstfreie Orte für politische Diskussionen und legitime Proteste bleiben.“

      Die Massaker der Hamas und die Geiselnahmen israelischer Staatsangehöriger vom 7. Oktober 2023 waren der Auslöser des aktuellen Krieges. Das darf in der Debatte um das furchtbare Leid der Menschen im Gazastreifen und der vielen Opfer des aktuellen Krieges niemals vergessen werden. Dennoch muss Protest gegen Ausmaß und Form der militärischen Reaktion Israels möglich sein.

      „Es kann doch niemanden ernsthaft verwundern, dass dieser Konflikt auch in Deutschland und den hiesigen Hochschulen Menschen auf die Straße treibt. Protest muss möglich sein und darf nicht durch polizeiliche Maßnahmen erstickt werden, erst recht nicht in einer Bildungseinrichtung. Gemeinsames Ziel muss es sein, die Hochschulen zu einem Ort der Debatte zu machen, an der alle angstfrei teilhaben können. Das bedeutet auch, antisemitischen und menschenverachtenden Aussagen klar entgegenzutreten. Die GEW BERLIN verurteilt entschieden jeglichen Antisemitismus und jede Form von gruppenbezogener Menschenfeindlichkeit. Explizit lehnen wir auch die Forderung nach einem Boykott israelischer Wissenschaftseinrichtungen ab. Gerade jetzt ist der Austausch mit der israelischen Öffentlichkeit und Wissenschaft von großer Bedeutung“, so Martina Regulin weiter.

      Die GEW BERLIN steht als Bildungsgewerkschaft und Vertretung der Beschäftigten an Hochschulen an der Seite der von der Kampagne betroffenen Hochschulangehörigen.
      Martina Regulin: „Wir begrüßen es, dass sich auch die Freie Universität Berlin ungeachtet unterschiedlicher Einschätzungen des Offenen Briefes vor ihre Mitglieder stellt und angekündigt hat, eine Beschwerde beim Presserat gegen die Angriffe der BILD-Zeitung einzulegen sowie rechtliche Schritte gegen die Diffamierungen zu prüfen. Es ist unerlässlich, dass Hochschulen ihre Lehrenden, Beschäftigten und Studierenden vor derartigen Anfeindungen schützen. Die politischen Verantwortungsträger*innen im Bund und im Land Berlin sind angehalten, die Hochschulen in der aufgeheizten Debatte zu unterstützen, Dialog zu fördern und die Stellen zu stärken, die sich gegen Antisemitismus und jegliche Form von Rassismus und Diskriminierung einsetzen.“


    • Dialog und Meinungsfreiheit an den Universitäten
      Pressemitteilung vom 15.05.2024

      Niemand muss gut finden, wie die letzte Woche vom Theaterhof der Rostlaube geräumten Studierenden ihre Besetzung begründet haben. Ihre Meinung dürfen sie im Rahmen des gesetzlich Erlaubten aber genauso äußern wie diejenigen, die die Aktion falsch finden. Daher erklärt sich ver.di Berlin-Brandenburg solidarisch mit allen, die an den Universitäten weiterhin gewaltfrei einen kritischen öffentlichen Dialog auch zu schwierigen Themen führen wollen – und verurteilt die angeordnete Räumung, die mediale Hetze der Bild-Zeitung und andere Einmischungen von außen in die grundrechtlich garantierte Meinungsvielfalt an Universitäten.

      Berliner Lehrende hatten die polizeiliche Räumung eines Protestcamps an der FU Berlin öffentlich kritisiert und das Grundrecht auf Protest und Meinungsäußerung insbesondere an Hochschulen verteidigt. In Reaktion auf die Stellungnahme kam es zu einer verunglimpfenden Berichterstattung durch die Bild-Zeitung und zu diffamierenden Äußerungen in den sozialen Medien.

      „Dass Lehrende öffentlich an den Pranger gestellt werden, wenn sie sich für die Verteidigung von Grundrechten an Hochschulen einsetzen, nehmen wir nicht hin. Gegen eine solche Verunglimpfung von Hochschullehrenden durch die Bild-Zeitung hätte Unterstützung von höchster Stelle kommen sollen“, sagt Benjamin Roscher, stellvertretender Landesbezirksleiter von ver.di Berlin-Brandenburg. „Stattdessen werden Lehrende selbst aus der Politik diffamiert.“

      ver.di stellt sich hinter die Berliner Lehrenden, die kritisiert haben, dass die Räumung des Protestcamps an der FU Berlin angeordnet wurde, ohne ein vorheriges Gesprächsangebot zu formulieren. Hochschulen sind Orte der Wissensproduktion, des Dialogs und sollten auf gewaltfreie Lösungen setzen. Der Einsatz von Polizei kann allenfalls als letztes Mittel dienen.

      „Für uns Gewerkschafter*innen und Beschäftigte an Hochschulen sind Universitäten Orte der Debatte, die zum Austausch und Diskurs einladen sowie die Meinungsvielfalt fördern sollte“, sagt Michaela Müller-Klang, Vorsitzende des Landesfachbereichsvorstands Gesundheit, soziale Dienste, Bildung und Wissenschaft. „Die öffentliche Diffamierung von Berliner Lehrenden ist da genauso wenig hilfreich wie der Einsatz von Polizei gegen grundrechtlich geschützte Proteste.“


    • –> with details about how it is linked to the protest and situation in #Berlin

      Intervention — “Policing Palestine Solidarity: Moral Urban Panics and Authoritarian Specters in Germany”

      Vanessa E. Thompson and Pinar Tuzcu, Queen’s University

      On April 12th 2024, the “Palestine Congress – We Accuse!” in Berlin—a tribunal at which movements, human rights groups, and individuals wanted to come together to denounce the mass destruction of Gaza and its population by the state of Israel, expose the role that the German state plays, and mobilize for human rights and “Never Again” for all—was heavily criminalized through bureaucratic, mediatic, and police repression. The media has slandered and demonized the Congress and its organizers for weeks. Berlin politicians tried to ban the event, and police intimidated its organizers and the venue holder and raided their homes. Prior to the Congress, the German state suspended and froze the bank account of a Jewish organization that had been co-organizing the event. On the day of the Congress, around 2,500 police officers were mobilized to surround, control, and attack the congress with 800 ticket holders. One speaker, Dr. Ghassan Abu-Sittah, a Palestinian-British surgeon and rector of Glasgow University, was detained at Berlin airport and denied entry.[1]

      Dr. Salman Abu Sitta received a similar restriction. After less than an hour of the conference program, and after three minutes of Dr. Abu Sitta’s video speech, police in riot gear stormed the venue, violently stopped the live stream, broke into the control room, turned off the electricity, and arrested conference organizers and attendees. They banned the continuation of the Congress. The next day, police severely attacked protesters against the congress ban. Yanis Varoufakis, former Greek finance minister and one of the scheduled speakers at the Congress, was also unable to deliver his speech. When he recorded his speech via video, he was given, without further legal justification, a Betätigungsverbot (a ban on all political activity) in Germany (Anwält*innenKollektiv 2024; Giovetti 2024). German authorities suggest that this includes addressing a German audience via Zoom. The organizers of the Congress held a press conference to inform the public about the massive criminalization of the event. On April 14th, they further aired part of the program online and passed a resolution in which they accuse Germany of “aiding and abetting genocide” (Palästina Kongress 2024; see also International Court of Justice 2024). On the same day, the protest camp “Occupation Against Occupation”, which was set up in front of the federal parliament on April 8th, was violently attacked by police. As part of the criminalization techniques, protestors were banned from using any language other than German or English (including Arabic and Hebrew) so that they could be better monitored by police forces (Al-Farooq 2024). On April 26th, the camp was then brutally removed by police, including using pain compliance holds and suffocating techniques.

      What has transpired at the Palestine Congress in Germany and at the protest camp is a further escalation of the increasing state crackdown on Palestine solidarity that has been ongoing for some time now. This crackdown has been growing over the past few years and includes incidents of repression such as: the numerous bans on commemorations of the Nakba in Berlin in May 2023, where police even criminalized dancing the dabke (traditional folk dance performed in Palestine, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria) in public (Bynun 2023); the mass arrests for carrying keffiyehs and Palestinian flags in 2021 and 2022 (AFP 2021; Shakir 2022); the institutional and systemic silencing and criminalization of Palestinian voices speaking on Palestinian rights in politics, the media, and academia for many years (Al-Taher and Younes 2023; Tzuberi and Samour 2022); the state-led antagonism and collectivized accusations of antisemitism directed towards the curators and artists of Documenta 15 and Documenta 16’s curator body (Artforum 2023); the countless disinvitations of critical scholars by German universities and cultural institutions; the firing of critical journalists and scholars; and the 2019 BDS resolution passed by the German Bundestag (Nasr and Alkousaa 2019). All these examples demonstrate that censoring and criminalizing discussions about Palestinian liberation are anything but new in Germany (Younes 2023). These measures have particularly targeted racialized and migrant communities, organizers, scholars, artists, and journalists who have spoken out strongly about contemporary colonial dynamics—including, though not limited to, issues related to the occupation of Palestine.

      Since the October 7th Hamas-led attack and the ongoing destruction of Palestinian life and culture by the Israeli army, however, moral urban panics (Chahrour et al. 2023; Hall et al. 1978; Tsianos 2013) over Palestine solidarity stoked by the media, the entire political spectrum, and mainstream civil society have promptly led to an anti-Palestinian crackdown rendering especially Palestinian and Jewish members of solidarity movements targets of harassment, intimidation, denunciation, and arrests by German police in the name of “fighting” antisemitism.

      On the one hand, the current mass criminalization enforced by the German state and members of civil society—on the streets, in social media, in political, cultural, and educational institutions—is emblematic of Germany’s racist and nationalist politics of singularity around the memory of the Holocaust (Doughan 2022, 2024; Moses 2021; Prochnik et al. 2023a, 2023b). On the other hand, the hyper-criminalization of Palestine solidarity must be understood as part of an authoritarian transformation that is a result of a crisis of neoliberal racial hegemony over the last two decades, with its most prominent manifestations in the further rise of the far right, the normalization of authoritarian measures by the political center, including the dismantling of liberal political and social rights. Further manifestations include the reconfiguration of neo-imperial formations “abroad” (Germany not only expanded its military budget in 2022 by 100 billion euros, but it is also the second largest arms exporter to Israel) and the strengthening of murderous anti-migration regimes “at home”.[2]

      In this rising conjuncture of an “ideologically incoherent but politically effective bloc” (Toscano 2024), the far and militant right, the political center, and parts of the left further hug each other, as evidenced by the proximity of their political agenda not only when it comes to the criminalization and repression of Palestine solidarity in the name of “fighting” antisemitism but also the criminalization of anti-fascist movements and the radical climate movement, anti-immigration politics, and advocating for more policing and militarization. Currently, this reactionary alliance is crystallized around Palestine solidarity, but it is in no way limited to it.

      This reactionary alliance should concern everybody who considers themselves progressive in Germany and beyond. Moreover, we need to understand this as a laboratory period that has many parallels to post-9/11 as well, as the securitization of borders and increasing policing methods that were rolled out after 9/11 were never rolled back, and accusations of “terrorism” were massively weaponized to make repression palatable and manage racial national cohesion.[3] At this moment, it further becomes clear that institutionalized liberal anti-racist and diversity politics that are adopted by Western institutions were never the real solution but are rather part of the larger problem. Many of the diversity agents and offices keep silent in the face of surging anti-Palestinian racism. Instead, their so-called anti-discrimination mechanisms and “safety” discourses are used to actively criminalize Palestine solidarity (Lennard 2024). This produces a fertile ground for policing any serious engagement with anti-racist struggle in Germany and beyond.

      Spaces of Policing Palestine Solidarity in Germany

      Right after October 7th, many migrant working-class districts like Berlin-Neukölln were (even more) heavily policed and practically occupied by police forces for several weeks to prevent protests with draconian measures. In Berlin, where the largest Palestinian diaspora in Europe resides, protests were banned on the grounds of supposedly “imminent danger” as well as “glorification of violence”, thereby constructing Palestinians as a violent threat (Hauenstein 2023). Over 850 related arrests were made by police just in the first weeks (Durie 2023). A special police task force was set up at the end of October (Besondere Aufbauorganisation / BAO) with the purpose of advising police forces on cases “in connection with the Middle East conflict” (Jackson 2024). Following the first weeks of a complete ban, demonstrations against the destruction of Palestinians in Gaza co-organized by left Jewish and Palestinian collectives and human rights groups, as well as anti-racist migrant organizations more broadly, were tightly controlled and disciplined (Schaer 2023). Another striking instance is that left-wing and anti-Zionist Jews are regularly arrested by police. In mid-October, for instance, a Jewish activist carrying a sign reading “As an Israeli and a Jew: Stop the genocide in Gaza” was arrested in Berlin (Butland 2023). She was arrested again at a demonstration in November 2023, when police proclaimed the slogan “Stop the Genocide” to be banned during the demonstration (Bateman 2023).[4] However, as organizers make very clear, Palestinians have been facing this repression for decades (Jackson 2024). Another radical leftist internationalist feminist collective named Zora in Berlin was raided by police for their standing with Palestinian liberation (DW 2023). The criminalization of Palestine solidarity is, of course, not limited to Berlin. In Dortmund, a protest in November organized by several trade unions, feminist and communist groups, and parts of the Kurdish movement, was heavily policed and controlled. Although rejecting any form of terror, Israeli state terror, and the occupation, the groups were accused of “inciting racial hatred” for holding signs with “Solidarity with the Palestinian liberation struggle” (NordstadtBlogger 2023).

      Policing also unfolds through banning and criminalizing events, as well as through related forms of bureaucratic violence such as withdrawing state funding. For example, for the Oyoun cultural center in Berlin-Neukölln, funding was revoked by the Senate for hosting an event with Jewish Voice for a Just Peace in the Middle East (Oyoun 2023).[5] At the event in November, based on the Jewish mourning tradition of shiva, the participants commemorated the people killed on and after October 7th. It has also been noted that numerous Jewish dissidents who oppose or criticize the Israeli government have been silenced, deplatformed, or fired.[6] As absurd as it might sound, the German state claims that such actions are intended to “protect” Jews in Germany from antisemitism, while ironically once again daring to define and question the “quality” and “authenticity” of the Jewishness of these oppositional voices. These logics also foster the racist distinction between the “good” and “bad” migrant. Recently, the district office Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg in Berlin announced the closing of the two only migrant queer youth centers, Alia and Phantalisa, located in the districts of Friedrichshain and Kreuzberg. The reason for the closures was the content of personal Instagram posts of some of the center’s staff and program coordinators, their participation in pro-Palestine demonstrations, and that one of the youth workers was scheduled to speak at the Palestine Congress (Eckhardt 2024). Here, we also see how further austerity measures, especially targeting migrant and queer social projects, are pushed in the name of “fighting” antisemitism.

      The German state government’s authoritarian mentality is further exemplified by repressive and carceral measures in educational institutions. Berlin’s Education Senator advised schools to ban traditional Palestinian garments and instructed teachers to surveil students who wear any garment or symbol associated with Palestinian liberation (Fatima 2023). These carceral measures also prompt a discussion about the long-standing and ongoing debate concerning state repression in relation to clothing. In Germany, wearing religious symbols such as a cross, or any clothing that represents the Christian religion, is not considered to be politically motivated. Yet, wearing a hijab and keffiyeh—although the former is a religious garment and the latter is a cultural one—is often perceived as the manifestation of a political threat. And while the considerable and alarming risks involved in wearing a kippah in Germany should not be downplayed, but rather struggled against through principled anti-fascism and non-carceral means, the German state and various political fractions deploy this perception against Muslims and Palestinians, and thereby increasingly pit anti-racism and the struggle against antisemitism against each other within the conjuncture of neo-imperialism and authoritarian (re)turns. Many, including some who consider themselves on the left, are feeding this logic, in part by calling for and embracing state violence as a response to political conflict and dissent.

      In February, the Social Democratic Party (SPD) and the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) in Berlin decided to distribute the brochure “Mythos#Israel1948”, in which the Nakba is described as a “myth” in high schools (Ertel 2024). In schools located in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, police distributed informational material stating that it would be considered “incitement to racial hatred” if students were to label the events unfolding in Gaza as a genocide. Such actions exemplify the profound impact of oppressive state violence on both adults and children, especially if they are Palestinian.

      In many German universities, administrators called the police on student protests showing solidarity with the people in Gaza. At Freie Universität Berlin, police brutally dissolved a lecture hall occupation in riot gear in December 2023 (Transnational University Solidarity Initiative 2024). At Universität Kassel, where students organized a vigil in early November to commemorate their fellow student, Yousef Shaban, who was killed by Israeli forces in Gaza on October 24th, the university administration demanded that students take off traditional Palestinian clothing and then switch off their microphone (Küster 2023). The university administration ended the event because students contextualized the killing of their fellow student as the consequence of Israel’s ongoing occupation (Jamal 2023). Currently, the Berlin Senate, with the support of many conservative and liberal student organizations, is pushing for the expansive reintroduction of the “regulatory law” at universities so that students can be expelled/ex-matriculated more easily because of “political reasons” (a move that was first brought up by the far right) (Jawabreh 2024). For foreign students, this would result in the loss of a residency visa and the right to work. This law was previously abolished in 2021 because of its disciplinary function as an instrument of authoritarian repression (Rüstemeyer and Kley 2024). On May 7th, the university administration of Freie Universität Berlin called the police again on its students, who joined the international encampment movement, demanding “stop the genocide”, boycott, divestment and sanctions, the protection of academic freedom and end of repression against Palestine solidarity, and a recognition of Germany’s “colonial legacy” (Student Coalition Berlin 2024). The police brutally cleared the camp, detaining many students and leaving many with severe injuries. A statement by more than 300 Berlin university lecturers and further lecturers from other parts of Germany and beyond, which defends the students’ right to protest and right to assembly, whether the signatories agree with their demands or not, was smeared by Federal Minister of Education and Research, Bettina Stark-Watzinger, on social media and in Germany’s Bild tabloid, published by Axel Springer SE (The Berliner 2024) , which actively benefits from Israeli settlements in the West Bank (Hauenstein 2024). While Bild’s smear campaign, in which especially racialized scholars are individually attacked, is not surprising, the support of authoritarian measures by liberals points to the actualization of a growing reactionary coalition. However, it is also important to note that despite excessive police violence, institutional and administrative suppression, political defamation, and lack of support from many faculty members,[7] university students have been organizing demonstrations, direct actions, and interventions, and creating their own initiatives all over Germany, defying criminalization of their solidarity with Palestinian civilians (UdK Jewish Solidarity Collective 2024).

      Policing is also increasing in the social media sphere. The German government is now using the internet to not just silence but criminalize anti-colonial and pro-Palestinian sentiments. No one should be surprised that when governments respond to offline protests with authoritarian tactics, people use the internet to voice their opposition. It is well-known that authorities swiftly block websites and punish users for their social media activity, particularly when these voices seek protection online from the state-sanctioned forms of violence and police brutality offline. When it comes to solidarity with Palestine, police increasingly draw on social media control and digital criminalization. Bans, police raids, house searches, and arrests as a result of social media policing and criminalization are accumulating with regard to Palestine solidarity in Germany. For instance, German police and prosecution offices are regularly raiding homes and arresting people based on the monitoring of social media accounts (for slogans such as “From the River to the Sea”; Generalstaatsanwaltschaft Berlin 2024).[8] After the Palestine Congress, police started criminal investigations into various speakers based on their tweets. A large portion of Germany’s civil society is aiding in this kind of internet policing by vilifying social media accounts and engaging in personal denunciations of those who support Palestinian causes or who speak out against the Israeli occupation of Palestine. Taking screenshots and archiving posts of dissident voices has become an everyday activity for some Germans, promoting themselves as the “good anti-antisemites” at the cost of many left migrant, Jewish, and Palestinian voices.

      Collective punishment and destruction of Palestinians in Gaza is not only aided and abetted by Germany ideologically and materially, but Palestinians who speak out against this and those who are in solidarity are also exposed to collective punishment within Germany. The German government’s criminalization of struggles for Palestinian liberation in the name of anti-antisemitism has long been based on the claim that migrants and refugees, particularly those who are Muslim or come from Muslim-majority countries, “import” antisemitism to Germany. The government uses this claim to justify the further deportation of migrants and refugees. The interview with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz by Der Spiegel at the end of October is illustrative of this point; in it, Schulz declared that “We must finally deport on a large scale those who have no right to stay in Germany” (Hickmann and Kurbjuweit 2023). The German government, through proclaiming a fight against antisemitism by all means, is actually further expanding the deportation apparatus and the fortification of Fortress Europe, as the recent passing of the Common European Asylum System (CEAS) demonstrates. Political pushes for making the pledge to Israel’s right to exist a precondition for naturalization (which is already the case in the federal state of Saxony-Anhalt) as well as asylum are further examples (Deutscher Bundestag 2023). The state thus continues to wage war against asylum seekers and the poor in general.

      Many migrant communities and their anti-racist comrades were not surprised by this new level of racist-authoritarian rhetoric and crackdown. Instead, they see it as the expansion and escalation of a new form of insidious alliance between the major political parties and the far-right in the manufacturing of state racism and racial national cohesion towards authoritarianism at “home” and neo-imperialism “abroad”.

      While all these modes of state and civic repression are rolled out under the guise of “fighting antisemitism”, German state and structural antisemitism and the deeply anchored antisemitism in German society are on full display as the country relentlessly targets Jewish communities that publicly reject the Israeli occupation of Palestine and platforms antisemitic far-right forces. As Germany tries to spin its antisemitic past and present in the context of Palestinian liberation, it has fashioned itself in the image of a moral authority while ushering in actual authoritarianism and proxy Israeli nationalism.

      State Anti-Antisemitism as Authoritarian Carceral Racism

      Antisemitism as well as racism, especially anti-Palestinian racism, are surging in Germany. There has been an ongoing increase of antisemitic attacks in German cities (such as the arson attack on the synagogue in Berlin’s Brunnenstraße, the recent attack on a synagogue in Oldenburg, the daily assaults of Jewish people on the streets, in their homes and workplaces, and the desecration of Jewish cemeteries and memorial sites), even before October 7th. The vast majority of antisemitic attacks are perpetrated by German right-wing extremists and white supremacists, attacks that flourish in a society in which antisemitism is deeply anchored. Racist attacks against people read as Muslims are also further rising. In fact, right-wing, antisemitic, and racist terrorism has been flourishing in Germany for many decades (Burschel and Balhorn 2020).[9] Germany is the country with the most right-wing terrorist attacks all over Europe (The Economist 2020). The terrorist attacks of the so-called National Socialist Underground, a German neo-Nazi terrorist organization that committed ten murders of (post-) migrants in the years between 1998 and 2011,[10] as well as more recent antisemitic and racist supremacist terrorist attacks such as the ones in the cities of Halle (Oltermann and Beckett 2019) and Hanau (Forensic Architecture 2022), are only the most striking accounts. These attacks also reveal the involvement of the police and the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution in right-wing terrorism, as they were explicitly or implicitly involved through forms of collaboration with neo-Nazis, the criminalization of victims, or the overall generation of conditions that made it easier for terrorist attacks to occur. The series of racist and antisemitic chat “scandals” within German police forces, as well as the overall flourishing of far-right activity within police and military institutions, are another example (Moore 2021) that points to the close (historic) inherent relationship between state racism, antisemitism, and far-right structures. It is thus not surprising that the German state wages war against Palestine solidarity while the far-right is holding mass meetings to discuss their plans of “mass deportations” of refugees, migrants, people with migration biography, and German nationals with “opposing views”, and while antisemitism within the mainstream society is rising (Connolly 2024).

      Combating antisemitism (and all other forms of racism, all connected to the capitalist social order) is, especially in Germany, considering its past of industrial mass murder of six million Jews, an absolute necessity, no matter where antisemitism occurs. This includes opposing the attacks against synagogues and all forms of Jewish life by any means, and opposing the idea that Jews should be held responsible for the actions of the Israeli state. This is an antisemitic conflation that is also reproduced by German state authorities when claiming that the critique of the Israeli state and of the occupation of Palestine harms Jews per se in Germany.

      Radical anti-racist activists and scholars, especially leftist Palestinian and Jewish voices within Germany, have long argued that state anti-antisemitism and the carceral turn in the struggle against antisemitism operates as a tool of domination and a national cohesion project in times of German neo-fascistization (Hill and Younes 2024). Leftist Jewish groups clearly state that what makes them unsafe are right-wing politicians and Nazis, increasingly taking over in the German parliament, the collaboration of police, military, and the far-right, the structural and cultural racism within German institutions, and the externalization of blame for antisemitism to racialized communities (Jewish Bund 2023). The German state not only re-frames itself as the one that recognizes its violent past and acts upon it, but also transposes antisemitism onto the racialized (especially Muslim), the other(ed), also to cover up widespread antisemitism among Germans within this conjuncture of authoritarian (re)turns. At the same time, as Germany places its historical responsibility onto the Palestinians (while neglecting any responsibility for the mass displacement and dispossession of Palestinians), it continues to super-exploit, exclude, and criminalize these populations while neglecting genuine antisemitism (Dische-Becker 2024b).

      A narrative that undergirds this strategy of moral and neo-imperial political deflection is that of Germany’s Staatsräson (Kundnani 2024), articulated as an unconditional solidarity with the state of Israel “abroad” and the fight against antisemitism “at home”. While the struggle against antisemitism and for a universal German memory culture has been a left civil society project in the past decades (Prochnik et al. 2023a, 2023b), and increasingly became a state-building project in the 1990s against the background of German unification (while right-wing mobilizations and attacks were rampant), there has been a further shift since the 2000s towards explicit and unconditional solidarity with Israel. It is no surprise that this shift (towards a proxy-nationalism) also occurred against the background of the neo-imperial “War on Terror” (Younes 2020), the rise of neoliberal state racism, and the further expansion of carcerality.

      The broader German population has long relativized its responsibility for the Holocaust, claiming that the majority of Germans were not aware of the industrial mass murder of six million Jews in concentration camps (Steinhoff 2001) or willfully imagining that their relatives were hiding Jews from the threat of extermination. With the German debate around “imported” antisemitism, however, Germans are further projecting their responsibility for the mass murder of Jews onto migrants,[11] especially people read as Muslim, in order to police belonging and citizenship as well as to justify political repression and neo-imperial interests. State and carceral anti-antisemitism is a project of national racial cleansing and national cohesion building within the broader conjuncture of authoritarian transformation. Like this, the contract between the far-right and the political center is not only further strengthened. People in Germany are further interpellated into a politics of de-solidarization from above, including the de-solidarization between Jewish and other racialized communities. Multi-directional struggles against the legacies of genocide (especially with regard to Germany),[12] mass violence, and (internal as well as external) colonial projects are thus further rendered impossible.

      Towards Abolitionist and Multi-directional Solidarity against Authoritarian State Violence

      The events and developments outlined in this essay show that the specter of authoritarianism has returned to Germany in full force. But there is resistance. Critical Jewish, Palestinian, and migrant voices as well as non-migrant folks are doing the work of building solidarity and antifascist abolitionist safety through struggling against antisemitism and other forms of racism, including within marginalized and racialized communities. They are building the solidarities beyond racialized, national, and religious identifications that enable liberation futures without occupation. They further oppose the authoritarian turn not through liberal but through radical means and without calling upon and thereby expanding the carceral racist state, which is not only complicit in antisemitic attacks but also provides the ground for these to flourish. Radically universalizing “Never Again for Anyone” instead of exceptionalizing human life and preciousness (Gilmore 2022), many collectives in Germany refuse to be silenced, even in the face of all the repressive measures. They connect the complex but related legacies of dispossession, structural violence, and genocide through a memory politics that articulates through present struggle and solidarity (Erinnern heißt Kämpfen! / “Remembering means struggle!”).

      Various groups of leftist Jews and Palestinians, as well as those who are working towards emancipatory futures, are engaging in peace work and reparative justice, including supporting each other against antisemitic and racist attacks and envisioning collective futures of co-existence without occupation, dispossession, and exploitation everywhere. Student collectives in solidarity with Palestine are joining Palestinian rights groups and anti-Zionist Jewish groups. Union initiatives like Health4Gaza and TradeUnionists4Gaza are growing. Grassroots efforts to monitor, document, and counter repressive attacks are plentiful,[13] and critical voices within academic and cultural institutions are increasing as well. Subaltern political culture puts a focus on Palestine solidarity,[14] and many collectives are further connecting struggles against policing and borders with struggles against the military-industrial complex and safe worlds for everyone. This protest and organizing demonstrates that the people will resist authoritarian governments, fascism, neo-imperialism, and their interdependent modes of oppression, and carcerality no matter where they are located. If the specter of authoritarianism wanders around Germany, so does the Palestinian spring of resistance.


      ping @cdb_77 -> très bonne analyse en anglais sur la situtuation en Allemagne

    • Attacks on German Campus Protests Fuel Authoritarian Turn

      Over the last few weeks, protest camps against the war in Gaza have spread from US universities to Europe. This includes Germany, Israel’s closest ally alongside the United States. More than 150 students occupied a courtyard at the Free University of Berlin (FU) on May 7, the same day that Israeli armed forces began their assault on Rafah. The camp had barely been set up before the university administration called the police onto campus — and had the peaceful protesters forcibly evicted.

      An open letter by academic staff from Berlin and other German universities published on the same day emphasized the students’ right to peaceful protest, calling on administrators to pursue dialogue and negotiations. This sparked a bitter public controversy that had little to do with the war in Palestine — and completely ignored the fact that Israel has systematically destroyed all universities in the Gaza Strip.

      Education minister Bettina Stark-Watzinger accused the signatories of trivializing violence and antisemitism. She even insinuated they were violating Germany’s constitution, the Basic Law. The mayor of Berlin stated his express intent to nip the camps in the bud before things could reach the level of the United States or France. In the days that followed, conservative politicians called for the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution to investigate university lecturers, along with the expulsion and, where possible, deportation of pro-Palestinian students. Germany’s largest tabloid, Bild, published a full-page article with photos of some of the signatories to the open letter in the style of “Wanted” posters — prompting sharp condemnations from the presidents of the universities concerned, as well as some academic associations and trade unions.

      Generations of Protest

      Judging by the German media response, you might get the impression that the protest camp at the Free University was unprecedented. But universities and colleges have always served as spaces for debates about (international) political conflicts. Academic institutions are not only places for the production of knowledge but are also expected to create spaces for exchange and critical comment and serve as sites of political education. Dissent is an integral part of such critical education, and sometimes that means protests.

      Student protests have long been a catalyst for intergenerational upheaval and social change in Germany. In the late 1960s, the struggle between students, teachers, the extra-parliamentary opposition, and the state negotiated how to deal with the Nazi past, the new reality of capitalism in West Germany, and the liberalization of social norms. More recently, climate activists made headlines by occupying lecture halls in 2022 and 2023. An occupation at the Martin Luther University in Halle ended after five days of negotiations, with the university administration committing to climate targets.

      More often than political controversies, higher education policies have triggered waves of protest, such as the Bologna reform in the 1990s or the introduction of tuition fees in the 2000s. A nationwide education strike in 2009 marked the high point of this movement. Before that strike, students blocked highways in the state of Hesse and a university rector’s car was set on fire in Bielefeld.

      That said, students almost always rely on nonviolent forms of protest. In addition to permitted, legal demonstrations, these also include civil disobedience tactics such as sit-ins, disrupting events, occupying lecture halls, or blocking roads. Physical violence usually only comes into play when the police attempt to evict people or counterdemonstrators attack. As could also be observed at the FU on May 7, property damage and other violations of the law only began after the police intervened.

      The current protests are thus hardly unique but fit into a history of struggles in which different sides in academia — sometimes together, sometimes against each other — struggle over the future of the institution and society as a whole. This raises the question of why the current debates about the role and nature of German universities are so vicious. Evidently, a lot is at stake.

      Protesting at the Neoliberal-Feudal University

      The current escalation on German campuses is a symptom of a growing tension between overlapping processes of social change and internal university issues. New demographic realities that break with traditional notions of homogeneity and dominance in German society, instrumentalized and increasingly dysfunctional “anti-antisemitism” policies, economic precarity, and authoritarian tendencies already visible in the treatment of the climate movement, raise fundamental questions about how we want to live together in Germany. Universities also have to respond to these emerging social dynamics — but increasingly risk slipping into a crisis of their own.

      The war in Gaza and the International Court of Justice’s preliminary ruling that Israel could potentially be committing genocide have very concrete and tangible domestic political and social effects in Germany, which are also reflected at universities. They clearly demonstrate how heterogeneous German society has become in recent decades — one in four residents now has a migration background, while among children and adolescents this figure is as high as one in three. Marginalized groups increasingly see themselves as political subjects entitled to participate in public debate and shape politics and the world they live in. This not only sparks a backlash on the right-wing fringe, but it also presents the university with major challenges that it can choose to tackle either with authoritarianism or with cooperation.

      In contrast to many elite universities in the United States, which sometimes look more like investment funds with a school attached, German universities are by and large state-funded mass institutions. Today 56 percent of young people in Germany go to college. Their institutional independence is guaranteed by policies of so-called “university autonomy,” but as state funding declines, that autonomy is undercut by competition for third-party funding.

      Thus, the German university is a mass institution in which feudal and neoliberal logics intersect. Because graduates are workers with marketable qualifications, the university fulfills an important function in the logic of capitalist markets. What degrees are offered — and therefore which professorships — is decided not least by (imagined) employer interests. At the same time, the university is “feudal” in the sense that it formally grants professors wide autonomy, concentrates institutional power in professorial committees, and makes nonprofessorial academic staff dependent in clientelistic working relationships.

      While the increasing heterogeneity of German society and global interdependencies are clearly reflected among students, this is only partially the case among the professorial staff who dominate the university. Seventy-two percent of all professorships are still held by men, and only rarely by people with a foreign passport, migrant background, or parents without a university degree.

      This institutional architecture has direct implications for how the university can practically fulfill its role of informing and organizing debate and providing comprehensive education. How can issues find their place in the institution that lie outside the concerns of those who hold institutional power? How is it possible to take up an issue that students care about in academic forums? What happens when those issues have no place in the institution because the university offers no corresponding professorships or degree programs? This is precisely the issue that is visible today, and it is particularly evident in Germany’s large, metropolitan universities.

      The violence in Gaza simply does not occupy the same place of importance for professors that it does for students. Professors and students are not only separated by a generational gap, but also by differences in social background. Nonprofessorial academic staff are often closer to the student population in terms of their experience and perspectives. However, clientelistic dependency and neoliberal precariousness (80 percent of academic staff in Germany are employed on fixed-term contracts) limit their ability to speak freely.

      Moreover, only a few universities in Germany offer serious instruction, let alone research on Israel–Palestine. Middle Eastern studies, including the relevant languages, are not taken very seriously and have been starved of higher education funding for years. There is therefore a real lack of people with the necessary knowledge and expertise to deal with the issue at most universities.

      Defining Antisemitism

      The fact that the Free University of Berlin decided in favor of the police and against dialogue on May 7 cannot be explained by the internal constitution of the university and its relationship to social diversity alone. Political pressure from decision-makers who align their actions with German state interests may have also played a role. The administration’s decision to set aside university autonomy and hand matters over to the police was probably influenced by German politics and the dominant form of combating antisemitism, which is based on the controversial Working Definition of Antisemitism produced by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA).

      The IHRA’s Working Definition allows for the delegitimization and even criminalization of protests that express solidarity with Palestine and are critical of Israel by labeling them as antisemitic incitement to hatred — even if the people involved are anti-Zionist Jews. The definition’s influence in German politics has been growing since the late 2010s, but since the Hamas terrorist attack on October 7, efforts to make it binding have intensified in various locations. In this moral panic, right-wing narratives about alleged “no-go areas,” “imported antisemitism,” and the need for a strong state to maintain social order can increasingly be heard from liberal and even ostensibly left-wing media-political actors.

      As Diaspora Alliance and other dissident Jewish organizations in Germany point out, this dynamic hinders the overall fight against antisemitism and other forms of racism. After all, the repression against pro-Palestine protests in Germany is happening in a context in which most antisemitic violence is still committed by the far right, in which right-wing violence against individuals and groups labeled as political enemies is on the rise, and in which the far-right Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) is polling almost 20 percent nationwide and is the strongest party in some states.

      The dominant form of combating antiesmitism in Germany can be understood as a form of securitization. Administrative bans and police repression dominate over promoting knowledge and understanding. The securitization of the university — and thus the risk of it turning into a police organ — is obvious not only in the eviction of the protest camp, but also in the fierce behind-the-scenes debates over the inclusion of the IHRA Working Definition in university by-laws and funding guidelines for German cultural institutions.

      Since a nonbinding parliamentary resolution against the Boycott, Divestment, abd Sanctions (BDS) movement in 2019, in which the IHRA Working Definition was cited as a point of reference for the first time, a growing, legally questionable instrumentalization can be observed, whereby any criticism of the Israeli state is branded as antisemitism. Academic experts have warned against making the definition legally binding, including more than a thousand Jewish academics such as Omer Bartov, Seyla Benhabib, Atina Grossmann, Avishai Margalit, and many others who are highly regarded in Germany — including one of its original authors, Kenneth Stern. Since 2020, the Jerusalem Declaration on Antisemitism has provided a definition with broader academic support that makes it possible to combine the fight against antisemitism with a focus on fundamental rights and thus do better justice to our increasingly pluralistic societies.

      Some members of the German Rectors’ Conference, the politically influential association of German universities, have also expressed concern that a more extensive implementation of the IHRA definition could jeopardize academic freedom of opinion and academic freedom. In any case, the smear campaigns in the media-political response to the academics’ statement point to more fundamental conflicts emerging around basic rights as well as the representation of diversity in Germany’s institutions. Even if the state and police are pursuing their own agendas here, the police cannot resolve these broader social shifts. Germany’s authoritarian turn thus also appears to be a symptom of crisis and transition.

      The German state’s anti-antisemitism strategy is now converging with authoritarian tendencies that could previously be seen in the response to social movements like Black Lives Matter or the climate movement. Such policies not only promote repression, criminalization, and a lack of solidarity, but also tolerate if not encourage violence “from below” (such as when individuals attack climate protesters).

      Instead of uniting democratic forces against the right-wing authoritarian threat, authoritarian initiatives have repeatedly emerged from Germany’s political center, especially after May 7. The aforementioned surveillance of unwelcome academics by the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution is one example. So, too, are threats of expulsion, blacklisting — and the ongoing political intimidation in the media.

      Reflection and Repression

      These campaigns are already limiting the space for dissident views. They are, quite deliberately, blurring necessary (albeit complex and controversial) distinctions: between criticism of Israel and antisemitism, between antiwar protests and support for terrorism, between provocative slogans and actual violence, between understandable feelings of insecurity, a politically fueled moral panic that incites and exploits these feelings, and the actual security to which all university students and staff are entitled.

      The eviction of the protest camp at the Free University of Berlin and the media-political response have shown two things: Germany doesn’t seem ready to talk seriously about current Israeli government’s policies. As a result, voices that seek to do so are being pushed out of the public debate. Moreover, German universities do not yet seem fully aware that they should be the central place where debates on social and political change are held.

      Universities have the unique privilege — but also the obligation — to enable sober and critical thinking about social change and to encourage participation in the processes that go with that. To serve the cooperative pursuit of knowledge, they should see themselves as incubators of new ideas, not as government agencies. Should they instead choose to police those ideas, they narrow the space for cooperative knowledge production and undermine the university’s potentially democratizing role. To change course, we need to be creative — and have the courage to overcome the university’s neoliberal-feudal structure, turning it back into an institution for society as a whole.


    • Als Reaktion auf Kritik: Bildungsministerium wollte Fördermittel streichen

      Dem NDR liegen Unterlagen vor, wonach das Bundesministerium für Bildung prüfen wollte, ob kritischen Hochschullehrenden ihre Fördermittel gestrichen werden können. Grundlage der Prüfung ist ein offener Brief von Hochschullehrern, gegen die Räumung der kurzzeitigen Besetzung an der Berliner FU.

      Das Bundesministerium für Bildung (BMBF) hat hausintern um eine Prüfung gebeten, ob kritischen Hochschullehrenden Fördermittel gestrichen werden können. Dies belegen interne E-Mails aus dem Ministerium, die dem ARD-Magazin Panorama (NDR) vorliegen. Ausdrücklicher Anlass der Prüfung war ein offener Brief von Hochschullehrern, der sich gegen die Räumung einer zeitweiligen pro-palästinensischen Besetzung der Berliner Freien Universität (FU) richtete. Der offene Brief sprach sich dafür aus, nicht polizeilich gegen die Protestierenden im Rahmen der Besetzung der FU Berlin vorzugehen. Das Bundesministerium unter Leitung von Bettina Stark-Watzinger (FDP) hatte sich gegen den offenen Brief der Lehrenden positioniert.

      Wie die Panorama vorliegenden Mails belegen, hat die Leitung des Ministeriums intern um „eine förderrechtliche Bewertung, inwieweit von Seiten des BMBF ggf. Förderrechtliche Konsequenzen (Widerruf der Förderung etc.) möglich sind“, gebeten. Außerdem wollte sie prüfen lassen, ob sich in dem offenen Brief strafrechtlich relevante Aussagen finden lassen. So bittet sie auch „um eine juristische Prüfung einer etwaigen strafrechtlichen Relevanz der Aussagen in dem offenen Brief“.
      Prüfung des Verdachts der Volksverhetzung

      Das Bildungsministerium wollte in dem Prüfverfahren etwa prüfen lassen, ob es in dem offenen Brief zu Volksverhetzung kam oder ob der Inhalt von der Meinungsfreiheit gedeckt sei. Laut Schriftverkehr, der Panorama vorliegt, heißt es darin: „In der Kommunikation der Leitung wurde auch angezweifelt, dass die Hochschullehrer auf dem Boden des GG [Grundgesetz]stehen.“

      Aus dem Mailwechsel ergibt sich, dass Mitarbeiter des Ministeriums Bedenken gegen eine solche Prüfung äußerten. Das Bundesministerium habe „unabhängig vom Ergebnis einer rechtlichen Prüfung, keine unmittelbaren Handlungs- bzw. Einflussmöglichkeiten in (...) disziplinarrechtlicher Hinsicht“. Die betroffenen Lehrkräfte dürften Angestellte der Hochschulen des Landes Berlin sein. Eine Abschrift dieses Mailwechsels ist unten dokumentiert.
      Eingriff in die Meinungsfreiheit

      Clemens Arzt, pensionierter Professor für Staats- und Verwaltungsrecht in Berlin, sieht in dem Ansinnen der Ministeriumsleitung einen Versuch, „in die Meinungsfreiheit der Unterzeichner*innen des Briefs nach der Versammlungsauflösung an der FU einzugreifen. (…) Bei Konsequenzen wie dem Entzug von Fördermitteln wäre dies ein Eingriff in die Wissenschaftsfreiheit.“

      Auf eine Panorama-Anfrage zu diesem Vorgang erklärt das Bildungsministerium: „Das BMBF hat eine juristische Einordnung des Offenen Briefes vorgenommen. Im Ergebnis bewegt sich der Offene Brief noch im grundrechtlich geschützten Bereich der Meinungsfreiheit, weswegen sich aus dem Brief keine weiteren Konsequenzen ergeben. Damit erübrigen sich alle weiteren Spekulationen.“


      PDF Emailverkehr: https://daserste.ndr.de/panorama/download1200.pdf

    • Pressemitteilung: Universitätsbesetzungen und israelbezogener Antisemitismus – ein Kommentar der Leitungen von NS-Erinnerungsorten im Berliner Raum

      Seit dem 7. Oktober 2023 und noch einmal zugespitzt mit den Universitätsbesetzungen im Mai 2024 nehmen wir auch aus den Reihen der Wissenschaft Positionierungen wahr, zu denen wir vor dem Hintergrund unserer Arbeit an NS-Erinnerungsorten Stellung beziehen müssen.

      Die aktuellen Besetzungen deutscher Universitäten aus Protest gegen den Krieg in Gaza, der sich verheerend auf die Zivilbevölkerung auswirkt, geben auch radikalen antizionistischen, israelfeindlichen und antisemitischen Stimmen eine Plattform, zuletzt bei der Besetzung des Instituts für Sozialwissenschaften der Humboldt-Universität Berlin am 22./23. Mai 2024. Dies zeigte sich unübersehbar

      in der Verwendung des roten Dreiecks, mit dem die Hamas Ziele markiert, die von ihr oder anderen israelfeindlichen Militanten angegriffen werden (sollen);
      durch den Slogan „From the river to the sea…”, der sich gegen das Existenzrecht Israels richtet;
      durch die Parolen „Back to 1948“ oder „We want 48”, die ein Palästina in den Grenzen des einstigen britischen Mandatsgebietes vor dem UN-Teilungsplan und vor der Gründung des Staates Israel fordern;
      durch die Rufe „Zionisten sind Faschisten, töten Kinder und Zivilisten“, „Zionism is a crime“ oder „Antifaschismus ist Antizionismus“, die falsche historische Analogien herstellen und alte antisemitische Stereotype aufgreifen;
      durch die Aussage „Resistance is justified“, die den brutalen Terrorangriff der Hamas vom 7. Oktober 2023 zu einer legitimen Militäraktion umdeutet;
      durch Rufe, die Gewalt gegen israelische und jüdische Institutionen und Personen in Deutschland fordern: „Von Berlin nach Gaza, yallah intifada“ oder „When Gaza burns Berlin burns“.

      Wir sehen in dieser Sprache der Gewalt und in den Forderungen nach einem Boykott akademischer Beziehungen mit Israel und Israelis einen Angriff auf die Grundsätze demokratischer Auseinandersetzung und die Prinzipien politisch-historischer Bildung. Wir arbeiten mit israelischen Institutionen und Menschen in Israel zusammen: mit Gedenkstätten, Zeitzeug:innen und ihren Angehörigen; mit Universitäten und Wissenschaftler:innen; mit Museen und Künstler:innen; mit Organisationen der Zivilgesellschaft. Und wir werden die akademischen und kulturellen Beziehungen mit Israel weiterhin pflegen und intensivieren.

      Universitäten und andere Bildungseinrichtungen sollten Orte einer offenen, demokratischen Debattenkultur sein. Von den Protestierenden wurde die Anerkennung eines vermeintlichen israelischen Genozids zur Voraussetzung für weitere Gespräche mit den Universitätsleitungen gemacht, beispielsweise am 22. Mai 2024 gegenüber der Präsidentin der Humboldt-Universität, Prof. Julia von Blumenthal. Hierin zeigt sich deutlich eine israelfeindliche Ideologie, die sich einer kritischen Einordnung der Gegenwart verweigert.

      In der veröffentlichten Stellungnahme von Berliner Lehrenden zu den Besetzungen an der FU Berlin und anderen Universitäten vom 8. Mai 2024 ging es jedoch vor allem darum, das Recht von Studierenden auf „die Besetzung von Uni-Gelände“ zu verteidigen. Mit keinem Wort erwähnt wurden ihre jüdischen oder israelischen Studierenden oder andere Studierende, die diese Haltungen ablehnen bzw. sich durch die Proteste eingeschüchtert und bedroht fühlen. Auch als am 23. Mai 2024 die Räumung des Instituts an der Humboldt-Universität bevorstand, sahen diese Lehrenden ihre Rolle vor allem darin, Studierende vor möglicher Polizeigewalt zu schützen. Vermisst haben wir dabei klar einordnende, erklärende und kritisch kommentierende Worte zu den Aussagen, Forderungen und dem aggressiven und demokratiefeindlichen Verhalten einer großen Zahl der Protestierenden.

      Das Signal, das von diesem Umgang mit den höchst aggressiven „Protestcamps“ durch die Verantwortlichen ausgeht, sehen wir kritisch. Nicht nur jüdische oder israelische Studierende werden bedroht. Sie richten sich insbesondere gegen Wissenschaft und Bildung als Ganzes und tragen dazu bei, mögliche Gesprächspartner:innen einzuschüchtern und auszugrenzen, mithin Dialog und Verständigung zu verhindern.

      Ständige Konferenz der Leiter der NS-Gedenkorte im Berliner Raum

      Deborah Hartmann, Direktorin der Gedenk- und Bildungsstätte Haus der Wannsee-Konferenz
      Dr. Andrea Riedle, Direktorin der Stiftung Topographie des Terrors
      Prof. Dr. Axel Drecoll, Leiter der Stiftung Brandenburgische Gedenkstätten
      Uwe Neumärker, Direktor der Stiftung Denkmal für die ermordeten Juden Europas
      Prof. Dr. Johannes Tuchel, Leiter der Gedenkstätte Deutscher Widerstand


    • Statement der Freien Universität Berlin zu geplantem Protestcamp auf dem Campus in Dahlem

      Protestcamp soll auf öffentlich zugänglichem Gelände stattfinden

      Nr. 128/2024 vom 18.06.2024

      Bei der Berliner Polizei wurde ein mehrtägiges studentisches Protestcamp zu verschiedenen aktuellen Themen angemeldet. Es soll von Donnerstag, dem 20. Juni, um 16 Uhr bis zum 27. Juni auf einer Rasenfläche in der Nähe des Henry-Ford-Baus der Freien Universität Berlin in Berlin-Dahlem stattfinden. Die Freie Universität Berlin ist weder Veranstalterin noch hat sie das Camp genehmigt. Die Rasenfläche gilt als öffentlich zugängliche Fläche und fällt damit unter den Anwendungsbereich des Berliner Versammlungsfreiheitsgesetzes. Die Freie Universität Berlin ist mit der Polizei im Austausch. Oberste Prämisse muss bleiben, Eingriffe in die Arbeitsfähigkeit der Freien Universität Berlin sowie Lehre und Forschung zu vermeiden.

      „Wir gehen davon aus, dass die Polizei sicherstellen wird, dass das Camp ausschließlich der friedlichen und freien Meinungsäußerung dient“, sagte der Präsident der Freien Universität Berlin, Prof. Dr. Günter M. Ziegler: „Antisemitismus, Rassismus, Muslimfeindlichkeit und andere Formen von Diskriminierung sowie jede Form von Gewalt, Aufrufe zur Gewalt und Sachbeschädigungen, stellen für uns rote Linien dar. Sollte es zu solchen Verhaltensweisen kommen, werden wir Strafanzeige erstatten.

      Seit mehreren Monaten werden an der Freien Universität Berlin intensive Dialoge geführt – unter anderem im Rahmen zahlreicher Veranstaltungen –, die sich dem Themenkomplex Israel, Gaza und der Region aus unterschiedlichen Perspektiven widmen. Für die Freie Universität Berlin sind Konflikte und Kriege, ihre Entstehung, Dynamiken und die Auswirkungen auf Politik und Gesellschaft selbstverständliche Themen der wissenschaftlichen Auseinandersetzung in Forschung und Lehre. Die Freie Universität Berlin steht für den Schutz des Rechts auf Versammlungsfreiheit und freie Meinungsäußerung im Rahmen von Demonstrationen und friedlichen Protesten. Die Hochschule selbst ist ein Ort des Dialogs und des Austauschs von Argumenten, ein Ort der offenen und demokratischen Diskussionskultur – auch in konfliktreichen Situationen.“


  • Can Humanity Survive AI ?

    La question est l’expression des intérêts d’une partie des habitants de la bulle californienne. Elle est quand même intéressante car elle tourne autour des idées dangereuses de quelques très riches politiciens et entrepreneurs. Mettez vos centures avant de commencer le tour des montagnes russes de cet article.

    22.1.2024 by Garrison Lovely - With the development of artificial intelligence racing forward at warp speed, some of the richest men in the world may be deciding the fate of humanity right now.

    Google cofounder Larry Page thinks superintelligent AI is “just the next step in evolution.” In fact, Page, who’s worth about $120 billion, has reportedly argued that efforts to prevent AI-driven extinction and protect human consciousness are “speciesist” and “sentimental nonsense.”

    In July, former Google DeepMind senior scientist Richard Sutton — one of the pioneers of reinforcement learning, a major subfield of AI — said that the technology “could displace us from existence,” and that “we should not resist succession.” In a 2015 talk, Sutton said, suppose “everything fails” and AI “kill[s] us all”; he asked, “Is it so bad that humans are not the final form of intelligent life in the universe?”

    “Biological extinction, that’s not the point,” Sutton, sixty-six, told me. “The light of humanity and our understanding, our intelligence — our consciousness, if you will — can go on without meat humans.”

    Yoshua Bengio, fifty-nine, is the second-most cited living scientist, noted for his foundational work on deep learning. Responding to Page and Sutton, Bengio told me, “What they want, I think it’s playing dice with humanity’s future. I personally think this should be criminalized.” A bit surprised, I asked what exactly he wanted outlawed, and he said efforts to build “AI systems that could overpower us and have their own self-interest by design.” In May, Bengio began writing and speaking about how advanced AI systems might go rogue and pose an extinction risk to humanity.

    Bengio posits that future, genuinely human-level AI systems could improve their own capabilities, functionally creating a new, more intelligent species. Humanity has driven hundreds of other species extinct, largely by accident. He fears that we could be next — and he isn’t alone.

    Bengio shared the 2018 Turing Award, computing’s Nobel Prize, with fellow deep learning pioneers Yann LeCun and Geoffrey Hinton. Hinton, the most cited living scientist, made waves in May when he resigned from his senior role at Google to more freely sound off about the possibility that future AI systems could wipe out humanity. Hinton and Bengio are the two most prominent AI researchers to join the “x-risk” community. Sometimes referred to as AI safety advocates or doomers, this loose-knit group worries that AI poses an existential risk to humanity.

    In the same month that Hinton resigned from Google, hundreds of AI researchers and notable figures signed an open letter stating, “Mitigating the risk of extinction from AI should be a global priority alongside other societal-scale risks such as pandemics and nuclear war.” Hinton and Bengio were the lead signatories, followed by OpenAI CEO Sam Altman and the heads of other top AI labs.

    Hinton and Bengio were also the first authors of an October position paper warning about the risk of “an irreversible loss of human control over autonomous AI systems,” joined by famous academics like Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman and Sapiens author Yuval Noah Harari.

    LeCun, who runs AI at Meta, agrees that human-level AI is coming but said in a public debate against Bengio on AI extinction, “If it’s dangerous, we won’t build it.”

    Deep learning powers the most advanced AI systems in the world, from DeepMind’s protein-folding model to large language models (LLMs) like OpenAI’s ChatGPT. No one really understands how deep learning systems work, but their performance has continued to improve nonetheless. These systems aren’t designed to function according to a set of well-understood principles but are instead “trained” to analyze patterns in large datasets, with complex behavior — like language understanding — emerging as a consequence. AI developer Connor Leahy told me, “It’s more like we’re poking something in a Petri dish” than writing a piece of code. The October position paper warns that “no one currently knows how to reliably align AI behavior with complex values.”

    In spite of all this uncertainty, AI companies see themselves as being in a race to make these systems as powerful as they can — without a workable plan to understand how the things they’re creating actually function, all while cutting corners on safety to win more market share. Artificial general intelligence (AGI) is the holy grail that leading AI labs are explicitly working toward. AGI is often defined as a system that is at least as good as humans at almost any intellectual task. It’s also the thing that Bengio and Hinton believe could lead to the end of humanity.

    Bizarrely, many of the people actively advancing AI capabilities think there’s a significant chance that doing so will ultimately cause the apocalypse. A 2022 survey of machine learning researchers found that nearly half of them thought there was at least a 10 percent chance advanced AI could lead to “human extinction or [a] similarly permanent and severe disempowerment” of humanity. Just months before he cofounded OpenAI, Altman said, “AI will probably most likely lead to the end of the world, but in the meantime, there’ll be great companies.”

    Public opinion on AI has soured, particularly in the year since ChatGPT was released. In all but one 2023 survey, more Americans than not have thought that AI could pose an existential threat to humanity. In the rare instances when pollsters asked people if they wanted human-level or beyond AI, strong majorities in the United States and the UK said they didn’t.

    So far, when socialists weigh in on AI, it’s usually to highlight AI-powered discrimination or to warn about the potentially negative impact of automation in a world of weak unions and powerful capitalists. But the Left has been conspicuously quiet about Hinton and Bengio’s nightmare scenario — that advanced AI could kill us all.
    Worrying Capabilities
    Illustration by Ricardo Santos

    While much of the attention from the x-risk community focuses on the idea that humanity could eventually lose control of AI, many are also worried about less capable systems empowering bad actors on very short timelines.

    Thankfully, it’s hard to make a bioweapon. But that might change soon.

    Anthropic, a leading AI lab founded by safety-forward ex-OpenAI staff, recently worked with biosecurity experts to see how much an LLM could help an aspiring bioterrorist. Testifying before a Senate subcommittee in July, Anthropic CEO Dario Amodei reported that certain steps in bioweapons production can’t be found in textbooks or search engines, but that “today’s AI tools can fill in some of these steps, albeit incompletely,” and that “a straightforward extrapolation of today’s systems to those we expect to see in two to three years suggests a substantial risk that AI systems will be able to fill in all the missing pieces.”

    In October, New Scientist reported that Ukraine made the first battlefield use of lethal autonomous weapons (LAWs) — literally killer robots. The United States, China, and Israel are developing their own LAWs. Russia has joined the United States and Israel in opposing new international law on LAWs.

    However, the more expansive idea that AI poses an existential risk has many critics, and the roiling AI discourse is hard to parse: equally credentialed people make opposite claims about whether AI x-risk is real, and venture capitalists are signing open letters with progressive AI ethicists. And while the x-risk idea seems to be gaining ground the fastest, a major publication runs an essay seemingly every week arguing that x-risk distracts from existing harms. Meanwhile, orders of magnitude more money and people are quietly dedicated to making AI systems more powerful than to making them safer or less biased.

    Some fear not the “sci-fi” scenario where AI models get so capable they wrest control from our feeble grasp, but instead that we will entrust biased, brittle, and confabulating systems with too much responsibility, opening a more pedestrian Pandora’s box full of awful but familiar problems that scale with the algorithms causing them. This community of researchers and advocates — often labeled “AI ethics” — tends to focus on the immediate harms being wrought by AI, exploring solutions involving model accountability, algorithmic transparency, and machine learning fairness.

    I spoke with some of the most prominent voices from the AI ethics community, like computer scientists Joy Buolamwini, thirty-three, and Inioluwa Deborah Raji, twenty-seven. Each has conducted pathbreaking research into existing harms caused by discriminatory and flawed AI models whose impacts, in their view, are obscured one day and overhyped the next. Like that of many AI ethics researchers, their work blends science and activism.

    Those I spoke to within the AI ethics world largely expressed a view that, rather than facing fundamentally new challenges like the prospect of complete technological unemployment or extinction, the future of AI looks more like intensified racial discrimination in incarceration and loan decisions, the Amazon warehouse-ification of workplaces, attacks on the working poor, and a further entrenched and enriched techno-elite.
    Illustration by Ricardo Santos

    A frequent argument from this crowd is that the extinction narrative overhypes the capabilities of Big Tech’s products and dangerously “distracts” from AI’s immediate harms. At best, they say, entertaining the x-risk idea is a waste of time and money. At worst, it leads to disastrous policy ideas.

    But many of the x-risk believers highlighted that the positions “AI causes harm now” and “AI could end the world” are not mutually exclusive. Some researchers have tried explicitly to bridge the divide between those focused on existing harms and those focused on extinction, highlighting potential shared policy goals. AI professor Sam Bowman, another person whose name is on the extinction letter, has done research to reveal and reduce algorithmic bias and reviews submissions to the main AI ethics conference. Simultaneously, Bowman has called for more researchers to work on AI safety and wrote of the “dangers of underclaiming” the abilities of LLMs.

    The x-risk community commonly invokes climate advocacy as an analogy, asking whether the focus on reducing the long-term harms of climate change dangerously distracts from the near-term harms from air pollution and oil spills.

    But by their own admission, not everyone from the x-risk side has been as diplomatic. In an August 2022 thread of spicy AI policy takes, Anthropic cofounder Jack Clark tweeted that “Some people who work on long-term/AGI-style policy tend to ignore, minimize, or just not consider the immediate problems of AI deployment/harms.”
    “AI Will Save the World”

    A third camp worries that when it comes to AI, we’re not actually moving fast enough. Prominent capitalists like billionaire Marc Andreessen agree with safety folks that AGI is possible but argue that, rather than killing us all, it will usher in an indefinite golden age of radical abundance and borderline magical technologies. This group, largely coming from Silicon Valley and commonly referred to as AI boosters, tends to worry far more that regulatory overreaction to AI will smother a transformative, world-saving technology in its crib, dooming humanity to economic stagnation.

    Some techno-optimists envision an AI-powered utopia that makes Karl Marx seem unimaginative. The Guardian recently released a mini-documentary featuring interviews from 2016 through 2019 with OpenAI’s chief scientist, Ilya Sutskever, who boldly pronounces: “AI will solve all the problems that we have today. It will solve employment, it will solve disease, it will solve poverty. But it will also create new problems.”

    Andreessen is with Sutskever — right up until the “but.” In June, Andreessen published an essay called “Why AI Will Save the World,” where he explains how AI will make “everything we care about better,” as long as we don’t regulate it to death. He followed it up in October with his “Techno-Optimist Manifesto,” which, in addition to praising a founder of Italian fascism, named as enemies of progress ideas like “existential risk,” “sustainability,” “trust and safety,” and “tech ethics.” Andreessen does not mince words, writing, “We believe any deceleration of AI will cost lives. Deaths that were preventable by the AI that was prevented from existing [are] a form of murder.”

    Andreessen, along with “pharma bro” Martin Shkreli, is perhaps the most famous proponent of “effective accelerationism,” also called “e/acc,” a mostly online network that mixes cultish scientism, hypercapitalism, and the naturalistic fallacy. E/acc, which went viral this summer, builds on reactionary writer Nick Land’s theory of accelerationism, which argues that we need to intensify capitalism to propel ourselves into a posthuman, AI-powered future. E/acc takes this idea and adds a layer of physics and memes, mainstreaming it for a certain subset of Silicon Valley elites. It was formed in reaction to calls from “decels” to slow down AI, which have come significantly from the effective altruism (EA) community, from which e/acc takes its name.

    AI booster Richard Sutton — the scientist ready to say his goodbyes to “meat humans” — is now working at Keen AGI, a new start-up from John Carmack, the legendary programmer behind the 1990s video game Doom. The company mission, according to Carmack: “AGI or bust, by way of Mad Science!”
    Capitalism Makes It Worse

    In February, Sam Altman tweeted that Eliezer Yudkowsky might eventually “deserve the Nobel Peace Prize.” Why? Because Altman thought the autodidactic researcher and Harry Potter fan-fiction author had done “more to accelerate AGI than anyone else.” Altman cited how Yudkowsky helped DeepMind secure pivotal early-stage funding from Peter Thiel as well as Yudkowsky’s “critical” role “in the decision to start OpenAI.”

    Yudkowsky was an accelerationist before the term was even coined. At the age of seventeen — fed up with dictatorships, world hunger, and even death itself — he published a manifesto demanding the creation of a digital superintelligence to “solve” all of humanity’s problems. Over the next decade of his life, his “technophilia” turned to phobia, and in 2008 he wrote about his conversion story, admitting that “to say, I almost destroyed the world!, would have been too prideful.”

    Yudkowsky is now famous for popularizing the idea that AGI could kill everyone, and he has become the doomiest of the AI doomers. A generation of techies grew up reading Yudkowsky’s blog posts, but more of them (perhaps most consequentially, Altman) internalized his arguments that AGI would be the most important thing ever than his beliefs about how hard it would be to get it not to kill us.

    During our conversation, Yudkowsky compared AI to a machine that “prints gold,” right up until it “ignite[s] the atmosphere.”

    And whether or not it will ignite the atmosphere, that machine is printing gold faster than ever. The “generative AI” boom is making some people very, very rich. Since 2019, Microsoft has invested a cumulative $13 billion into OpenAI. Buoyed by the wild success of ChatGPT, Microsoft gained nearly $1 trillion in value in the year following the product’s release. Today the nearly fifty-year-old corporation is worth more than Google and Meta combined.

    Profit-maximizing actors will continue barreling forward, externalizing risks the rest of us never agreed to bear, in the pursuit of riches — or simply the glory of creating digital superintelligence, which Sutton tweeted “will be the greatest intellectual achievement of all time … whose significance is beyond humanity, beyond life, beyond good and bad.” Market pressures will likely push companies to transfer more and more power and autonomy to AI systems as they improve.

    One Google AI researcher wrote to me, “I think big corps are in such a rush to win market share that [AI] safety is seen as a kind of silly distraction.” Bengio told me he sees “a dangerous race between companies” that could get even worse.

    Panicking in response to the OpenAI-powered Bing search engine, Google declared a “code red,” “recalibrate[d]” their risk appetite, and rushed to release Bard, their LLM, over staff opposition. In internal discussions, employees called Bard “a pathological liar” and “cringe-worthy.” Google published it anyway.

    Dan Hendrycks, the director of the Center for AI Safety, said that “cutting corners on safety . . . is largely what AI development is driven by. . . . I don’t think, actually, in the presence of these intense competitive pressures, that intentions particularly matter.” Ironically, Hendrycks is also the safety adviser to xAI, Elon Musk’s latest venture.

    The three leading AI labs all began as independent, mission-driven organizations, but they are now either full subsidiaries of tech behemoths (Google DeepMind) or have taken on so many billions of dollars in investment from trillion-dollar companies that their altruistic missions may get subsumed by the endless quest for shareholder value (Anthropic has taken up to $6 billion from Google and Amazon combined, and Microsoft’s $13 billion bought them 49 percent of OpenAI’s for-profit arm). The New York Times recently reported that DeepMind’s founders became “increasingly worried about what Google would do with their inventions. In 2017, they tried to break away from the company. Google responded by increasing the salaries and stock award packages of the DeepMind founders and their staff. They stayed put.”

    One developer at a leading lab wrote to me in October that, since the leadership of these labs typically truly believes AI will obviate the need for money, profit-seeking is “largely instrumental” for fundraising purposes. But “then the investors (whether it’s a VC firm or Microsoft) exert pressure for profit-seeking.”

    Between 2020 and 2022, more than $600 billion in corporate investment flowed into the industry, and a single 2021 AI conference hosted nearly thirty thousand researchers. At the same time, a September 2022 estimate found only four hundred full-time AI safety researchers, and the primary AI ethics conference had fewer than nine hundred attendees in 2023.

    The way software “ate the world,” we should expect AI to exhibit a similar winner-takes-all dynamic that will lead to even greater concentrations of wealth and power. Altman has predicted that the “cost of intelligence” will drop to near zero as a result of AI, and in 2021 he wrote that “even more power will shift from labor to capital.” He continued, “If public policy doesn’t adapt accordingly, most people will end up worse off than they are today.” Also in his “spicy take” thread, Jack Clark wrote, “economy-of-scale capitalism is, by nature, anti-democratic, and capex-intensive AI is therefore anti-democratic.”

    Markus Anderljung is the policy chief at GovAI, a leading AI safety think tank, and the first author on an influential white paper focused on regulating “frontier AI.” He wrote to me and said, “If you’re worried about capitalism in its current form, you should be even more worried about a world where huge parts of the economy are run by AI systems explicitly trained to maximize profit.”

    Sam Altman, circa June 2021, agreed, telling Ezra Klein about the founding philosophy of OpenAI: “One of the incentives that we were very nervous about was the incentive for unlimited profit, where more is always better. . . . And I think with these very powerful general purpose AI systems, in particular, you do not want an incentive to maximize profit indefinitely.”

    In a stunning move that has become widely seen as the biggest flash point in the AI safety debate so far, Open-AI’s nonprofit board fired CEO Sam Altman on November 17, 2023, the Friday before Thanksgiving. The board, per OpenAI’s unusual charter, has a fiduciary duty to “humanity,” rather than to investors or employees. As justification, the board vaguely cited Altman’s lack of candor but then ironically largely kept quiet about its decision.

    Around 3 a.m. the following Monday, Microsoft announced that Altman would be spinning up an advanced research lab with positions for every OpenAI employee, the vast majority of whom signed a letter threatening to take Microsoft’s offer if Altman wasn’t reinstated. (While he appears to be a popular CEO, it’s worth noting that the firing disrupted a planned sale of OpenAI’s employee-owned stock at a company valuation of $86 billion.) Just after 1 a.m. on Wednesday, OpenAI announced Altman’s return as CEO and two new board members: the former Twitter board chair, and former Treasury secretary Larry Summers.

    Within less than a week, OpenAI executives and Altman had collaborated with Microsoft and the company’s staff to engineer his successful return and the removal of most of the board members behind his firing. Microsoft’s first preference was having Altman back as CEO. The unexpected ouster initially sent the legacy tech giant’s stock plunging 5 percent ($140 billion), and the announcement of Altman’s reinstatement took it to an all-time high. Loath to be “blindsided” again, Microsoft is now taking a nonvoting seat on the nonprofit board.

    Immediately after Altman’s firing, X exploded, and a narrative largely fueled by online rumors and anonymously sourced articles emerged that safety-focused effective altruists on the board had fired Altman over his aggressive commercialization of OpenAI’s models at the expense of safety. Capturing the tenor of the overwhelming e/acc response, then pseudonymous founder @BasedBeffJezos posted, “EAs are basically terrorists. Destroying 80B of value overnight is an act of terrorism.”

    The picture that emerged from subsequent reporting was that a fundamental mistrust of Altman, not immediate concerns about AI safety, drove the board’s choice. The Wall Street Journal found that “there wasn’t one incident that led to their decision to eject Altman, but a consistent, slow erosion of trust over time that made them increasingly uneasy.”

    Weeks before the firing, Altman reportedly used dishonest tactics to try to remove board member Helen Toner over an academic paper she coauthored that he felt was critical of OpenAI’s commitment to AI safety. In the paper, Toner, an EA-aligned AI governance researcher, lauded Anthropic for avoiding “the kind of frantic corner-cutting that the release of ChatGPT appeared to spur.”

    The New Yorker reported that “some of the board’s six members found Altman manipulative and conniving.” Days after the firing, a DeepMind AI safety researcher who used to work for OpenAI wrote that Altman “lied to me on various occasions” and “was deceptive, manipulative, and worse to others,” an assessment echoed by recent reporting in Time.

    This wasn’t Altman’s first time being fired. In 2019, Y Combinator founder Paul Graham removed Altman from the incubator’s helm over concerns that he was prioritizing his own interests over those of the organization. Graham has previously said, “Sam is extremely good at becoming powerful.”

    OpenAI’s strange governance model was established specifically to prevent the corrupting influence of profit-seeking, but as the Atlantic rightly proclaimed, “the money always wins.” And more money than ever is going into advancing AI capabilities.
    Full Speed Ahead

    Recent AI progress has been driven by the culmination of many decades-long trends: increases in the amount of computing power (referred to as “compute”) and data used to train AI models, which themselves have been amplified by significant improvements in algorithmic efficiency. Since 2010, the amount of compute used to train AI models has increased roughly one-hundred-millionfold. Most of the advances we’re seeing now are the product of what was at the time a much smaller and poorer field.

    And while the last year has certainly contained more than its fair share of AI hype, the confluence of these three trends has led to quantifiable results. The time it takes AI systems to achieve human-level performance on many benchmark tasks has shortened dramatically in the last decade.

    It’s possible, of course, that AI capability gains will hit a wall. Researchers may run out of good data to use. Moore’s law — the observation that the number of transistors on a microchip doubles every two years — will eventually become history. Political events could disrupt manufacturing and supply chains, driving up compute costs. And scaling up systems may no longer lead to better performance.

    But the reality is that no one knows the true limits of existing approaches. A clip of a January 2022 Yann LeCun interview resurfaced on Twitter this year. LeCun said, “I don’t think we can train a machine to be intelligent purely from text, because I think the amount of information about the world that’s contained in text is tiny compared to what we need to know.” To illustrate his point, he gave an example: “I take an object, I put it on the table, and I push the table. It’s completely obvious to you that the object would be pushed with the table.” However, with “a text-based model, if you train a machine, as powerful as it could be, your ‘GPT-5000’ . . . it’s never gonna learn about this.”

    But if you give ChatGPT-3.5 that example, it instantly spits out the correct answer.

    In an interview published four days before his firing, Altman said, “Until we go train that model [GPT-5], it’s like a fun guessing game for us. We’re trying to get better at it, because I think it’s important from a safety perspective to predict the capabilities. But I can’t tell you here’s exactly what it’s going to do that GPT-4 didn’t.”

    History is littered with bad predictions about the pace of innovation. A New York Times editorial claimed it might take “one million to ten million years” to develop a flying machine — sixty-nine days before the Wright Brothers first flew. In 1933, Ernest Rutherford, the “father of nuclear physics,” confidently dismissed the possibility of a neutron-induced chain reaction, inspiring physicist Leo Szilard to hypothesize a working solution the very next day — a solution that ended up being foundational to the creation of the atomic bomb.

    One conclusion that seems hard to avoid is that, recently, the people who are best at building AI systems believe AGI is both possible and imminent. Perhaps the two leading AI labs, OpenAI and DeepMind, have been working toward AGI since their inception, starting when admitting you believed it was possible anytime soon could get you laughed out of the room. (Ilya Sutskever led a chant of “Feel the AGI” at OpenAI’s 2022 holiday party.)
    Perfect Workers

    Employers are already using AI to surveil, control, and exploit workers. But the real dream is to cut humans out of the loop. After all, as Marx wrote, “The machine is a means for producing surplus-value.”

    Open Philanthropy (OP) AI risk researcher Ajeya Cotra wrote to me that “the logical end point of a maximally efficient capitalist or market economy” wouldn’t involve humans because “humans are just very inefficient creatures for making money.” We value all these “commercially unproductive” emotions, she writes, “so if we end up having a good time and liking the outcome, it’ll be because we started off with the power and shaped the system to be accommodating to human values.”

    OP is an EA-inspired foundation financed by Facebook cofounder Dustin Moskovitz. It’s the leading funder of AI safety organizations, many of which are mentioned in this article. OP also granted $30 million to OpenAI to support AI safety work two years before the lab spun up a for-profit arm in 2019. I previously received a onetime grant to support publishing work at New York Focus, an investigative news nonprofit covering New York politics, from EA Funds, which itself receives funding from OP. After I first encountered EA in 2017, I began donating 10 to 20 percent of my income to global health and anti–factory farming nonprofits, volunteered as a local group organizer, and worked at an adjacent global poverty nonprofit. EA was one of the earliest communities to seriously engage with AI existential risk, but I looked at the AI folks with some wariness, given the uncertainty of the problem and the immense, avoidable suffering happening now.

    A compliant AGI would be the worker capitalists can only dream of: tireless, motivated, and unburdened by the need for bathroom breaks. Managers from Frederick Taylor to Jeff Bezos resent the various ways in which humans aren’t optimized for output — and, therefore, their employer’s bottom line. Even before the days of Taylor’s scientific management, industrial capitalism has sought to make workers more like the machines they work alongside and are increasingly replaced by. As The Communist Manifesto presciently observed, capitalists’ extensive use of machinery turns a worker into “an appendage of the machine.”

    But according to the AI safety community, the very same inhuman capabilities that would make Bezos salivate also make AGI a mortal danger to humans.
    Explosion: The Extinction Case

    The common x-risk argument goes: once AI systems reach a certain threshold, they’ll be able to recursively self-improve, kicking off an “intelligence explosion.” If a new AI system becomes smart — or just scaled up — enough, it will be able to permanently disempower humanity.

    The October “Managing AI Risks” paper states:

    There is no fundamental reason why AI progress would slow or halt when it reaches human-level abilities. . . . Compared to humans, AI systems can act faster, absorb more knowledge, and communicate at a far higher bandwidth. Additionally, they can be scaled to use immense computational resources and can be replicated by the millions.

    These features have already enabled superhuman abilities: LLMs can “read” much of the internet in months, and DeepMind’s AlphaFold can perform years of human lab work in a few days.

    Here’s a stylized version of the idea of “population” growth spurring an intelligence explosion: if AI systems rival human scientists at research and development, the systems will quickly proliferate, leading to the equivalent of an enormous number of new, highly productive workers entering the economy. Put another way, if GPT-7 can perform most of the tasks of a human worker and it only costs a few bucks to put the trained model to work on a day’s worth of tasks, each instance of the model would be wildly profitable, kicking off a positive feedback loop. This could lead to a virtual “population” of billions or more digital workers, each worth much more than the cost of the energy it takes to run them. Sutskever thinks it’s likely that “the entire surface of the earth will be covered with solar panels and data centers.”

    These digital workers might be able to improve on our AI designs and bootstrap their way to creating “superintelligent” systems, whose abilities Alan Turing speculated in 1951 would soon “outstrip our feeble powers.” And, as some AI safety proponents argue, an individual AI model doesn’t have to be superintelligent to pose an existential threat; there might just need to be enough copies of it. Many of my sources likened corporations to superintelligences, whose capabilities clearly exceed those of their constituent members.

    “Just unplug it,” goes the common objection. But once an AI model is powerful enough to threaten humanity, it will probably be the most valuable thing in existence. You might have an easier time “unplugging” the New York Stock Exchange or Amazon Web Services.

    A lazy superintelligence may not pose much of a risk, and skeptics like Allen Institute for AI CEO Oren Etzioni, complexity professor Melanie Mitchell, and AI Now Institute managing director Sarah Myers West all told me they haven’t seen convincing evidence that AI systems are becoming more autonomous. Anthropic’s Dario Amodei seems to agree that current systems don’t exhibit a concerning level of agency. However, a completely passive but sufficiently powerful system wielded by a bad actor is enough to worry people like Bengio.

    Further, academics and industrialists alike are increasing efforts to make AI models more autonomous. Days prior to his firing, Altman told the Financial Times: “We will make these agents more and more powerful . . . and the actions will get more and more complex from here. . . . The amount of business value that will come from being able to do that in every category, I think, is pretty good.”
    What’s Behind the Hype?

    The fear that keeps many x-risk people up at night is not that an advanced AI would “wake up,” “turn evil,” and decide to kill everyone out of malice, but rather that it comes to see us as an obstacle to whatever goals it does have. In his final book, Brief Answers to the Big Questions, Stephen Hawking articulated this, saying, “You’re probably not an evil ant-hater who steps on ants out of malice, but if you’re in charge of a hydroelectric green-energy project and there’s an anthill in the region to be flooded, too bad for the ants.”

    Unexpected and undesirable behaviors can result from simple goals, whether it’s profit or an AI’s reward function. In a “free” market, profit-seeking leads to monopolies, multi-level marketing schemes, poisoned air and rivers, and innumerable other harms.

    There are abundant examples of AI systems exhibiting surprising and unwanted behaviors. A program meant to eliminate sorting errors in a list deleted the list entirely. One researcher was surprised to find an AI model “playing dead” to avoid being identified on safety tests.

    Yet others see a Big Tech conspiracy looming behind these concerns. Some people focused on immediate harms from AI argue that the industry is actively promoting the idea that their products might end the world, like Myers West of the AI Now Institute, who says she “see[s] the narratives around so-called existential risk as really a play to take all the air out of the room, in order to ensure that there’s not meaningful movement in the present moment.” Strangely enough, Yann LeCun and Baidu AI chief scientist Andrew Ng purport to agree.

    When I put the idea to x-risk believers, they often responded with a mixture of confusion and exasperation. OP’s Ajeya Cotra wrote back: “I wish it were less of an industry-associated thing to be concerned about x-risk, because I think it’s just really fundamentally, on the merits, a very anti-industry belief to have. . . . If the companies are building things that are going to kill us all, that’s really bad, and they should be restricted very stringently by the law.”

    GovAI’s Markus Anderljung called fears of regulatory capture “a natural reaction for folks to have,” but he emphasized that his preferred policies may well harm the industry’s biggest players.

    One understandable source of suspicion is that Sam Altman is now one of the people most associated with the existential risk idea, but his company has done more than any other to advance the frontier of general-purpose AI.

    Additionally, as OpenAI got closer to profitability and Altman got closer to power, the CEO changed his public tune. In a January 2023 Q and A, when asked about his worst-case scenario for AI, he replied, “Lights out for all of us.” But while answering a similar question under oath before senators in May, Altman doesn’t mention extinction. And, in perhaps his last interview before his firing, Altman said, “I actually don’t think we’re all going to go extinct. I think it’s going to be great. I think we’re heading towards the best world ever.”

    Altman implored Congress in May to regulate the AI industry, but a November investigation found that OpenAI’s quasi-parent company Microsoft was influential in the ultimately unsuccessful lobbying to exclude “foundation models” like ChatGPT from regulation by the forthcoming EU AI Act. And Altman did plenty of his own lobbying in the EU, even threatening to pull out of the region if regulations became too onerous (threats he quickly walked back). Speaking on a CEO panel in San Francisco days before his ouster, Altman said that “current models are fine. We don’t need heavy regulation here. Probably not even for the next couple of generations.”

    President Joe Biden’s recent “sweeping” executive order on AI seems to agree: its safety test information sharing requirements only affect models larger than any that have likely been trained so far. Myers West called these kinds of “scale thresholds” a “massive carveout.” Anderljung wrote to me that regulation should scale with a system’s capabilities and usage, and said that he “would like some regulation of today’s most capable and widely used models,” but he thinks it will “be a lot more politically viable to impose requirements on systems that are yet to be developed.”

    Inioluwa Deborah Raji ventured that if the tech giants “know that they have to be the bad guy in some dimension . . . they would prefer for it to be abstract and long-term in timeline.” This sounds far more plausible to me than the idea that Big Tech actually wants to promote the idea that their products have a decent chance of literally killing everyone.

    Nearly seven hundred people signed the extinction letter, the majority of them academics. Only one of them runs a publicly traded company: OP funder Moskovitz, who is also cofounder and CEO of Asana, a productivity app. There were zero employees from Amazon, Apple, IBM, or any leading AI hardware firms. No Meta executives signed.

    If the heads of the Big Tech firms wanted to amplify the extinction narrative, why haven’t they added their names to the list?
    Why Build the “Doom Machine?”

    If AI actually does save the world, whoever created it may hope to be lauded like a modern Julius Caesar. And even if it doesn’t, whoever first builds “the last invention that man need ever make” will not have to worry about being forgotten by history — unless, of course, history ends abruptly after their invention.

    Connor Leahy thinks that, on our current path, the end of history will shortly follow the advent of AGI. With his flowing hair and unkempt goatee, he would probably look at home wearing a sandwich board reading “The end is nigh” — though that hasn’t prevented him from being invited to address the British House of Lords or CNN. The twenty-eight-year-old CEO of Conjecture and cofounder of EleutherAI, an influential open-source collective, told me that a lot of the motivation to build AI boils down to: “‘Oh, you’re building the ultimate doom machine that makes you billions of dollars and also king-emperor of earth or kills everybody?’ Yeah, that’s like the masculine dream. You’re like, ‘Fuck yeah. I am the doom king.’” He continues, “Like, I get it. This is very much in the Silicon Valley aesthetic.”

    Leahy also conveyed some-thing that won’t surprise people who have spent significant time in the Bay Area or certain corners of the internet:

    There are actual, completely unaccountable, unelected, techno-utopian businesspeople and technologists, living mostly in San Francisco, who are willing to risk the lives of you, your children, your grandchildren, and all of future humanity just because they might have a chance to live forever.

    In March, the MIT Technology Review reported that Altman “says he’s emptied his bank account to fund two . . . goals: limitless energy and extended life span.”

    Given all this, you might expect the ethics community to see the safety community as a natural ally in a common struggle to reign in unaccountable tech elites who are unilaterally building risky and harmful products. And, as we saw earlier, many safety advocates have made overtures to the AI ethicists. It’s also rare for people from the x-risk community to publicly attack AI ethics (while the reverse is . . . not true), but the reality is that safety proponents have sometimes been hard to stomach.

    AI ethicists, like the people they advocate for, often report feeling marginalized and cut off from real power, fighting an uphill battle with tech companies who see them as a way to cover their asses rather than as a true priority. Lending credence to this feeling is the gutting of AI ethics teams at many Big Tech companies in recent years (or days). And, in a number of cases, these companies have retaliated against ethics-oriented whistleblowers and labor organizers.

    This doesn’t necessarily imply that these companies are instead seriously prioritizing x-risk. Google DeepMind’s ethics board, which included Larry Page and prominent existential risk researcher Toby Ord, had its first meeting in 2015, but it never had a second one. One Google AI researcher wrote to me that they “don’t talk about long-term risk . . . in the office,” continuing, “Google is more focused on building the tech and on safety in the sense of legality and offensiveness.”

    Software engineer Timnit Gebru co-led Google’s ethical AI team until she was forced out of the company in late 2020 following a dispute over a draft paper — now one of the most famous machine learning publications ever. In the “stochastic parrots” paper, Gebru and her coauthors argue that LLMs damage the environment, amplify social biases, and use statistics to “haphazardly” stitch together language “without any reference to meaning.”

    Gebru, who is no fan of the AI safety community, has called for enhanced whistleblower protections for AI researchers, which are also one of the main recommendations made in GovAI’s white paper. Since Gebru was pushed out of Google, nearly 2,700 staffers have signed a solidaristic letter, but then Googler Geoff Hinton was not one of them. When asked on CNN why he didn’t support a fellow whistleblower, Hinton replied that Gebru’s critiques of AI “were rather different concerns from mine” that “aren’t as existentially serious as the idea of these things getting more intelligent than us and taking over.”

    Raji told me that “a lot of cause for frustration and animosity” between the ethics and safety camps is that “one side has just way more money and power than the other side,” which “allows them to push their agenda way more directly.”

    According to one estimate, the amount of money moving into AI safety start-ups and nonprofits in 2022 quadrupled since 2020, reaching $144 million. It’s difficult to find an equivalent figure for the AI ethics community. However, civil society from either camp is dwarfed by industry spending. In just the first quarter of 2023, OpenSecrets reported roughly $94 million was spent on AI lobbying in the United States. LobbyControl estimated tech firms spent €113 million this year lobbying the EU, and we’ll recall that hundreds of billions of dollars are being invested in the AI industry as we speak.

    One thing that may drive the animosity even more than any perceived difference in power and money is the trend line. Following widely praised books like 2016’s Weapons of Math Destruction, by data scientist Cathy O’Neil, and bombshell discoveries of algorithmic bias, like the 2018 “Gender Shades” paper by Buolamwini and Gebru, the AI ethics perspective had captured the public’s attention and support.

    In 2014, the AI x-risk cause had its own surprise bestseller, philosopher Nick Bostrom’s Superintelligence, which argued that beyond-human AI could lead to extinction and earned praise from figures like Elon Musk and Bill Gates. But Yudkowsky told me that, pre-ChatGPT, outside of certain Silicon Valley circles, seriously entertaining the book’s thesis would make people look at you funny. Early AI safety proponents like Yudkowsky have occupied the strange position of maintaining close ties to wealth and power through Bay Area techies while remaining marginalized in the wider discourse.

    In the post-ChatGPT world, Turing recipients and Nobel laureates are coming out of the AI safety closet and embracing arguments popularized by Yudkowsky, whose best-known publication is a piece of Harry Potter fan fiction totaling more than 660,000 words.

    Perhaps the most shocking portent of this new world was broadcast in November, when the hosts of a New York Times tech podcast, Hard Fork, asked the Federal Trade Commission chair: “What is your p(doom), Lina Khan? What is your probability that AI will kill us all?” EA water cooler talk has gone mainstream. (Khan said she’s “an optimist” and gave a “low” estimate of 15 percent.)

    It would be easy to observe all the open letters and media cycles and think that the majority of AI researchers are mobilizing against existential risk. But when I asked Bengio about how x-risk is perceived today in the machine learning community, he said, “Oh, it’s changed a lot. It used to be, like, 0.1 percent of people paid attention to the question. And maybe now it’s 5 percent.”

    Like many others concerned about AI x-risk, the renowned philosopher of mind David Chalmers made a probabilistic argument during our conversation: “This is not a situation where you have to be 100 percent certain that we’ll have human-level AI to worry about it. If it’s 5 percent, that’s something we have to worry about.”

    This kind of statistical thinking is popular in the EA community and is a large part of what led its members to focus on AI in the first place. If you defer to expert arguments, you could end up more confused. But if you try to average the expert concern from the handful of surveys, you might end up thinking there’s at least a few-percent chance that AI extinction could happen, which could be enough to make it the most important thing in the world. And if you put any value on all the future generations that could exist, human extinction is categorically worse than survivable catastrophes.

    However, in the AI debate, allegations of arrogance abound. Skeptics like Melanie Mitchell and Oren Etzioni told me there wasn’t evidence to support the x-risk case, while believers like Bengio and Leahy point to surprising capability gains and ask: What if progress doesn’t stop? An academic AI researcher friend has likened the advent of AGI to throwing global economics and politics into a blender.

    Even if, for some reason, AGI can only match and not exceed human intelligence, the prospect of sharing the earth with an almost arbitrarily large number of human-level digital agents is terrifying, especially when they’ll probably be trying to make someone money.

    There are far too many policy ideas about how to reduce existential risk from AI to properly discuss here. But one of the clearer messages coming from the AI safety community is that we should “slow down.” Advocates for such a deceleration hope it would give policymakers and broader society a chance to catch up and actively decide how a potentially transformative technology is developed and deployed.
    International Cooperation

    One of the most common responses to any effort to regulate AI is the “but China!” objection. Altman, for example, told a Senate committee in May that “we want America to lead” and acknowledged that a peril of slowing down is that “China or somebody else makes faster progress.”

    Anderljung wrote to me that this “isn’t a strong enough reason not to regulate AI.”

    In a June Foreign Affairs article, Helen Toner and two political scientists reported that the Chinese AI researchers they interviewed thought Chinese LLMs are at least two to three years behind the American state-of-the-art models. Further, the authors argue that since Chinese AI advances “rely a great deal on reproducing and tweaking research published abroad,” a unilateral slowdown “would likely decelerate” Chinese progress as well. China has also moved faster than any other major country to meaningfully regulate AI, as Anthropic policy chief Jack Clark has observed.

    Yudkowsky says, “It’s not actually in China’s interest to commit suicide along with the rest of humanity.”

    If advanced AI really threatens the whole world, domestic regulation alone won’t cut it. But robust national restrictions could credibly signal to other countries how seriously you take the risks. Prominent AI ethicist Rumman Chowdhury has called for global oversight. Bengio says we “have to do both.”

    Yudkowsky, unsurprisingly, has taken a maximalist position, telling me that “the correct direction looks more like putting all of the AI hardware into a limited number of data centers under international supervision by bodies with a symmetric treaty whereby nobody — including the militaries, governments, China, or the CIA — can do any of the really awful things, including building superintelligences.”

    In a controversial Time op-ed from March, Yudkowsky argued to “shut it all down” by establishing an international moratorium on “new large training runs” backed by the threat of military force. Given Yudkowsky’s strong beliefs that advanced AI would be much more dangerous than any nuclear or biological weapon, this radical stance follows naturally.

    All twenty-eight countries at the recent AI Safety Summit, including the United States and China, signed the Bletchley Declaration, which recognized existing harms from AI and the fact that “substantial risks may arise from potential intentional misuse or unintended issues of control relating to alignment with human intent.”

    At the summit, the hosting British government commissioned Bengio to lead production of the first “State of the Science” report on the “capabilities and risks of frontier AI,” in a significant step toward a permanent expert body like the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

    Cooperation between the United States and China will be imperative for meaningful international coordination on AI development. And when it comes to AI, the two countries aren’t exactly on the best terms. With the 2022 CHIPS Act export controls, the United States tried to kneecap China’s AI capabilities, something an industry analyst would have previously considered an “act of war.” As Jacobin reported in May, some x-risk-oriented policy researchers likely played a role in passing the onerous controls. In October, the United States tightened CHIPS Act restrictions to close loopholes.

    However, in an encouraging sign, Biden and Xi Jinping discussed AI safety and a ban on AI in lethal weapons systems in November. A White House press release stated, “The leaders affirmed the need to address the risks of advanced AI systems and improve AI safety through U.S.-China government talks.”

    Lethal autonomous weapons are also an area of relative agreement in the AI debates. In her new book Unmasking AI: My Mission to Protect What Is Human in a World of Machines, Joy Buolamwini advocates for the Stop Killer Robots campaign, echoing a longtime concern of many AI safety proponents. The Future of Life Institute, an x-risk organization, assembled ideological opponents to sign a 2016 open letter calling for a ban on offensive LAWs, including Bengio, Hinton, Sutton, Etzioni, LeCun, Musk, Hawking, and Noam Chomsky.
    A Seat at the Table

    After years of inaction, the world’s governments are finally turning their attention to AI. But by not seriously engaging with what future systems could do, socialists are ceding their seat at the table.

    In no small part because of the types of people who became attracted to AI, many of the earliest serious adopters of the x-risk idea decided to either engage in extremely theoretical research on how to control advanced AI or started AI companies. But for a different type of person, the response to believing that AI could end the world is to try to get people to stop building it.

    Boosters keep saying that AI development is inevitable — and if enough people believe it, it becomes true. But “there is nothing about artificial intelligence that is inevitable,” writes the AI Now Institute. Managing director Myers West echoed this, mentioning that facial recognition technology looked inevitable in 2018 but has since been banned in many places. And as x-risk researcher Katja Grace points out, we shouldn’t feel the need to build every technology simply because we can.

    Additionally, many policymakers are looking at recent AI advances and freaking out. Senator Mitt Romney is “more terrified about AI” than optimistic, and his colleague Chris Murphy says, “The consequences of so many human functions being outsourced to AI is potentially disastrous.” Congresspeople Ted Lieu and Mike Johnson are literally “freaked out” by AI. If certain techies are the only people willing to acknowledge that AI capabilities have dramatically improved and could pose a species-level threat in the future, that’s who policymakers will disproportionately listen to. In May, professor and AI ethicist Kristian Lum tweeted: “There’s one existential risk I’m certain LLMs pose and that’s to the credibility of the field of FAccT [Fairness, Accountability, and Transparency] / Ethical AI if we keep pushing the snake oil narrative about them.”

    Even if the idea of AI-driven extinction strikes you as more fi than sci, there could still be enormous impact in influencing how a transformative technology is developed and what values it represents. Assuming we can get a hypothetical AGI to do what we want raises perhaps the most important question humanity will ever face: What should we want it to want?

    When I asked Chalmers about this, he said, “At some point we recapitulate all the questions of political philosophy: What kind of society do we actually want and actually value?”

    One way to think about the advent of human-level AI is that it would be like creating a new country’s constitution (Anthropic’s “constitutional AI” takes this idea literally, and the company recently experimented with incorporating democratic input into its model’s foundational document). Governments are complex systems that wield enormous power. The foundation upon which they’re established can influence the lives of millions now and in the future. Americans live under the yoke of dead men who were so afraid of the public, they built antidemocratic measures that continue to plague our political system more than two centuries later.

    AI may be more revolutionary than any past innovation. It’s also a uniquely normative technology, given how much we build it to reflect our preferences. As Jack Clark recently mused to Vox, “It’s a real weird thing that this is not a government project.” Chalmers said to me, “Once we suddenly have the tech companies trying to build these goals into AI systems, we have to really trust the tech companies to get these very deep social and political questions right. I’m not sure I do.” He emphasized, “You’re not just in technical reflection on this but in social and political reflection.”
    False Choices

    We may not need to wait to find superintelligent systems that don’t prioritize humanity. Superhuman agents ruthlessly optimize for a reward at the expense of anything else we might care about. The more capable the agent and the more ruthless the optimizer, the more extreme the results.

    Sound familiar? If so, you’re not alone. The AI Objectives Institute (AOI) looks at both capitalism and AI as examples of misaligned optimizers. Cofounded by former public radio show host Brittney Gallagher and “privacy hero” Peter Eckersley shortly before his unexpected death, the research lab examines the space between annihilation and utopia, “a continuation of existing trends of concentration of power in fewer hands — super-charged by advancing AI — rather than a sharp break with the present.” AOI president Deger Turan told me, “Existential risk is failure to coordinate in the face of a risk.” He says that “we need to create bridges between” AI safety and AI ethics.

    One of the more influential ideas in x-risk circles is the unilateralist’s curse, a term for situations in which a lone actor can ruin things for the whole group. For example, if a group of biologists discovers a way to make a disease more deadly, it only takes one to publish it. Over the last few decades, many people have become convinced that AI could wipe out humanity, but only the most ambitious and risk-tolerant of them have started the companies that are now advancing the frontier of AI capabilities, or, as Sam Altman recently put it, pushing the “veil of ignorance back.” As the CEO alludes, we have no way of truly knowing what lies beyond the technological limit.

    Some of us fully understand the risks but plow forward anyway. With the help of top scientists, ExxonMobil had discovered conclusively by 1977 that their product caused global warming. They then lied to the public about it, all while building their oil platforms higher.

    The idea that burning carbon could warm the climate was first hypothesized in the late nineteenth century, but the scientific consensus on climate change took nearly one hundred years to form. The idea that we could permanently lose control to machines is older than digital computing, but it remains far from a scientific consensus. And if recent AI progress continues at pace, we may not have decades to form a consensus before meaningfully acting.

    The debate playing out in the public square may lead you to believe that we have to choose between addressing AI’s immediate harms and its inherently speculative existential risks. And there are certainly trade-offs that require careful consideration.

    But when you look at the material forces at play, a different picture emerges: in one corner are trillion-dollar companies trying to make AI models more powerful and profitable; in another, you find civil society groups trying to make AI reflect values that routinely clash with profit maximization.

    In short, it’s capitalism versus humanity.

    #intelligence_artificielle #politique #disruptoin #

    • J’ai survolé, et il me semble que l’article n’évoque jamais le transhumanisme de Ray Kurzweil, qui est pourtant l’idéologie quasi religieuse particulièrement en vogue en Californie. Et dont Larry Page est connu pour être un des importants mécènes.

      Or dans le texte, ça transparaît en permanence, et même les critiques des développements de l’IA semblent ici largement y adhérer.

  • The Canadian State Is Euthanizing Its Poor and Disabled

    Doctors and family members gather around a patient’s hospital bed who has decided on euthanasia on February 1, 2024. (Simon Wohlfahrt / AFP via Getty Images)

    Le Canada pratique une sorte de gestion libertaire des principes et programmes d’euthanasie nazis historiques. La base de l"octroi de l’euthanasie est toujours un avis de médecin, mais on y introduit un critère de sélection économique typique pour les fachos modernes des écoles d’Ayn Rand ou de Chicago.

    Sous les projecteurs de l’analyse de l’économie politique se dissipe le blabla idéologique de la mort digne. On pousse à la mort médicalement assisté (Medical Assistance in Dying, MAiD) les patients qu’on ne peut plus exploiter. Le diagnostique « pauvreté » transforme ton gentil toubib qui t’autorise à profiter des soins palliatifs en ange de la mort qui ne te rendra qu’un dernier service.

    Il est étonnant qu’aucun des auteurs pourtant critiques ne s’intéresse au fait que la caste des médecins ne fait pas tout pour aider « leurs » patient à accéder à des conditions de vie dignes mais préfère se débarasser des individus peu profitables. On découvre que la perspective du soignant n’est pas solidaire mais dominatrice.

    Dans la déscription des conditions canadiennes on découvre les limites des motivations économiques, car un patient vivant et soigné aux frais de la société est plus rentable pour les médecins que celui pour qui on ne peut facturer qu’une unique application du programme d’euthanasie MAiD. Peut-être je me trompe et les médecins craignent plutôt de perdre des patients si la société permettait á chacune et chacun une vie digne et libre de la douleur causée par l’usure et l’exploitation. Ce serait une motivation tout ausse abjecte.

    Tous ces programmes, qu’ils s’appellent MAID ou T4, ont été conçus par les médecins et sont réalisés par les médecins et contribuent à renforcer l’autorité des médecins. Outre les considérations purement économiques la question du pouvoir dans une société est peut-être la clé pour comprendre pourquoi ces atrocités ont lieu.

    La caste médicale fait exprès de rendre difficile l’accès au statut de médecin par les frais élevés, la longue durée des études et la limitation du nombre de places dans les facultés. Imaginez si chacun avait acquis les connaissances de base de la médecine pendant sa scolarité et si le contrôle de l’entrée dans la profession était un organisé suivant les besoins de la société de patients au lieu de servir d’abord à la préservation des privilège d’une élite. Peut-être les jeunes diplomés de médecine issus du peuple ordinaire seraient capable de transformer un métier de dominants dans une fonction publique et solidaire.

    Outre les spéculations utopiques prendre en compte la scarcité des médecins est indispensable pour comprendre le statu quo. Le statut d’élite forme les décisions politiques des médecins. Le patient disparaît alors derrière les exigences du métier. Le nombre restreint de médecins fait qu’ils n’ont pas besoin des patients individuels (que nous sommes toutes et tous) et l’exclusivité de leurs connaissances leur assure notre dépendance d’eux.

    Il n’y a pas d’expression plus crue du pouvoir absolu sur les patients que ces phrases : « Je ne peux pas vous aider à mieux vivre mais je peux vous donner la mort, j’y suis autorisé et je dispose de la technologique nécessaire. Alors suffrez ou mourez. Vous avez le choix. »

    Voilà les médecins plus menteurs que les arracheurs de dents : Le véritable choix qu’ont les souffrants est de mourir sous contrôle médical ou en tant qu’homme libre. Trop souvent le contrôle médical nous est imposé. Il est même difficile d’y échapper.

    5.2.2024 by David Moscrop - Canada boasts one of the world’s highest assisted-death rates, supposedly enabling the terminally ill to die with dignity. However, this suicide program increasingly resembles a dystopian replacement for care services, exchanging social welfare for euthanasia.

    For want of a mattress, a man is dead. That’s the story, in sum, of a quadriplegic man who chose to end his life in January through medically assisted death. Normand Meunier’s story, as reported by the CBC, began with a visit to a Quebec hospital due to a respiratory virus. Meunier subsequently developed a painful bedsore after being left without access to a mattress to accommodate his needs. Thereafter, he applied to Canada’s Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD) program.

    As Rachel Watts writes in her report, Meunier spent ninety-five hours on a stretcher in the emergency room — just hours short of four days. The bedsore he developed “eventually worsened to the point where bone and muscle were exposed and visible — making his recovery and prognosis bleak.” The man who “didn’t want to be a burden” chose to die at home. An internal investigation into the matter is underway.

    Disability and other advocates have been warning us for years that MAiD puts people at risk. They warned that the risk of people choosing death — because it’s easier than fighting to survive in a system that impoverishes people, and disproportionately does so to those who are disabled — is real. Underinvestment in medical care will push people up to and beyond the brink, which means some will choose to die instead of “burden” their loved ones or society at large. They were right.
    MAiD as the Failed Social Welfare State

    Canada now has one of the highest assisted-death rates in the world. As the Guardian reported in February, 4.1 percent of deaths in the country were physician-assisted — and the number is growing, up 30 percent between 2021 and 2022. In a survey of just over 13,100 people who opted for MAiD, a significant majority — 96.5 percent — chose to end their lives in the face of terminal illness or imminent death, Leyland Cecco, author of the report, noted. But 463 chose it in the face of “a chronic condition.”

    A libertarian ethos partially underwrote the fact that not many people blinked when MAiD was initially rolled out. Taking a more expansive view of rights, many of those not swayed by rote libertarianism were convinced that concerns over bodily autonomy and compassion were reason enough to adopt MAiD. However, in the absence of a robust welfare state, and in the face of structural poverty and discrimination, particularly toward disabled people, there is no world in which the MAiD program can be understood to be “progressive.”

    Indeed, last year, Jeremy Appel argued that MAiD was “beginning to look like a dystopian end run around the cost of providing social welfare.” Initially supportive, he changed his mind on MAiD as he considered that the decisions people make are not strictly speaking individual but are instead collectively shaped and sometimes “the product of social circumstances, which are outside of their control.” When we don’t care for one another, what do we end up with?

    “I’ve come to realize,” wrote Appel, “that euthanasia in Canada represents the cynical endgame of social provisioning with the brutal logic of late-stage capitalism — we’ll starve you of the funding you need to live a dignified life [. . .] and if you don’t like it, why don’t you just kill yourself?”

    Bracketing the question of whether the program should even exist at all, permitting those suffering from mental illness to access a suicide program — which the government was prepared to allow before rescheduling the controversial expansion of the law until 2027 — is the stuff of nightmarish science fiction. We can instead focus on the absurd and disturbing reality that our underfunded and subpar administration of care in Canada has led some up to, and through, the door of assisted death. As things stand, more will follow. It’s grotesque.

    In Canada’s most populous province, Ontario, a recipient of disability support receives about $1,300 a month — a pittance they’re meant to stretch to cover food, shelter, and other basic needs. Ontario Works — the province’s welfare program — pays a current maximum of $733 a month. Meanwhile, rental costs for a one bedroom apartment routinely push toward an average of $2,000 a month in many cities. In April, in Toronto, a one bedroom apartment averaged almost $2,500 a month.
    Euthanized by the State

    In a 2023 paper in the Canadian Medical Association Journal entitled “What Drives Requests for MAiD?” James Downar and Susan MacDonald argue that

    [d]espite fears that availability of MAiD for people with terminal illness would lead to requests for MAiD driven by socioeconomic deprivation or poor service availability (e.g., palliative care), available evidence consistently indicates that MAiD is most commonly received by people of high socioeconomic status and lower support needs, and those with high involvement of palliative care.

    By their own admission, the data on this matter is imperfect. But even if it were, the fact that “most” patients who choose MAiD are better off socioeconomically is beside the point. Some are not — and those “some” are important. That includes a man living with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis who, in 2019, chose medically assisted death because he couldn’t find adequate medical care that would also allow him to be with his son. It also includes a man whose application listed only “hearing loss,” and whose brother says he was “basically put to death.” This story came a year after experts raised the concern that the country’s MAiD regime was in violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

    In 2022, Global News said the quiet part out loud: poverty is driving disabled Canadians to consider MAiD. Those “some” who are driven to assisted death because of poverty or an inability to access adequate care deserve to live with dignity and with the resources they need to live as they wish. They should never, ever feel the pressure to choose to die because our social welfare institutions are starved and our health care system has been vandalized through years of austerity and poor management.

    Given the way our institutions and economic and political elite create and perpetuate poverty in Canada, particularly among disabled people, we should be particularly sensitive to the implications of the country’s MaiD regime for those who are often ignored when warning about the dangers of the law.

    The fact that we collectively have the wealth, means, and resources to address endemic poverty and provide adequate care to all but choose not to while any number of poor and disabled people are euthanized by the state is profane.
    For Whom the Bell Doesn’t Toll

    In a February piece for the Globe and Mail, University of Toronto law professor Trudo Lemmens wrote, “The results of our MAiD regime’s promotion of access to death as a benefit, and the trivialization of death as a harm to be protected against, are increasingly clear.” In critiquing MAiD’s second track, which allows physician-assisted death for those who do not face “a reasonably foreseeable death,” Lemmens points out that within two years of its adoption, “‘track two’ MAiD providers had ended already the lives of close to seven hundred disabled people, most of whom likely had years of life left.”

    In raising concerns about expanding MAiD to cover mental illness, Lemmens added that “there are growing concerns that inadequate social and mental health care, and a failure to provide housing supports, push people to request MAiD,” noting that “[a]dding mental illness as a basis for MAiD will only increase the number of people exposed to higher risks of premature death.”

    In 2021, Gabrielle Peters warned in Maclean’s that extending MAiD to cover those who weren’t facing an immediately foreseeable death was “dangerous, unsettling and deeply flawed.” She traced the various ways in which a broader MAiD law could lead to people choosing to die in the face of austerity, adding an intersectional lens that is often missing from our discussions and debates over the issue.

    She warned that we were failing to consider “how poverty and racism intersect with disability to create greater risk of harm, more institutional bias and barriers, additional layers of othering and dehumanization, and fewer resources for addressing any of these.” And now here we are. We should have listened more carefully.

    While MAiD may be defensible as a means for individuals to exercise personal choice in how they live and how they die when facing illness and pain, it is plainly indefensible when state-induced austerity and mismanagement leads to people choosing to end their lives that have been made unnecessarily miserable. In short, we are killing people for being poor and disabled, which is horrifying.

    It thus falls to proponents of MAiD to show how such deaths can be avoided, just as it falls to policymakers to build or rebuild institutions that ensure no one ever opts to end their life for lack of resources or support, which we could provide in abundance if we choose to.

    #Canada #euthanasie #meurtre #iatrocratie #économie #objectivisme #libéralisme

  • Portugal’s Revolution Transformed the Politics of Europe - An interview with Raquel Varela

    The Carnation Revolution In Lisbon, Portugal, on April 25, 1974. Photo Jean-Claude Francolon / Gamma-Rapho

    Je me rappelle, quel moment de joie !

    25.4.2024 Interview by Daniel Finn

    For almost half a century, Portugal was ruled by a right-wing dictatorship. António Salazar became the leader of the so-called Estado Novo in the same year Franklin Roosevelt entered the White House, and his successor Marcelo Caetano was still in power when Richard Nixon was reelected as president four decades later.

    Fifty years ago today, on April 25, 1974, a group of junior army officers carried out a plan to overthrow the dictatorship. The Carnation Revolution brought down the Estado Novo and kick-started a period of intense political upheaval. Its legacy can still be felt in Europe half a century later.

    Raquel Varela is a professor of history at the New University in Lisbon and the author of several books, including A People’s History of the Portuguese Revolution and a graphic novel about the Carnation Revolution. This is an edited transcript from Jacobin’s Long Reads podcast. You can listen to the interview here.

    Daniel Finn

    What was the nature of the Salazar-Caetano dictatorship that had ruled over Portugal since the 1920s?

    Raquel Varela

    There is a debate on what the Salazar regime represented, with several approaches. We have a left-wing approach connected with the tradition of the pro-Soviet Communist Party. These historians present the regime of the Estado Novo mainly as a regime that was highly conservative, fascist, anti-liberal, and hostile to parliamentary rule, representing the ultraconservative fraction of the bourgeoisie.

    Then you have a second approach, closer to the political science of figures like Samuel Huntington, which became very influential after the 1990s. This approach divides up the world in very simple terms between liberal-democratic and authoritarian regimes.

    There is another analysis that Leon Trotsky developed in his analysis of fascism in Germany, which was influenced by Karl Marx’s discussion of Bonapartism in nineteenth-century France. This approach sees a Bonapartist-type regime as a fake arbitrator that is seemingly trying to organize the classes in conflict with one another in a neutral way but is really acting in favor of the bourgeoisie.

    I would say that the Estado Novo was a Bonapartist regime, with Salazar as the apparently neutral figure. But I should underline that the difference between Bonapartism and fascism is not a question of violence. Both types of regime are deeply violent against the organized working classes.

    The main difference is that when we use the word fascism, we are referring to a civil war against the working class. Because of the threat of revolution, the bourgeoisie cannot use the army to defeat the workers, so they use militias instead. In Bonapartism, on the other hand, you can use the army, because the leadership of the working classes has already been defeated and there is no real threat of a social revolution.

    In the period of the Estado Novo, which went from the military dictatorship of the 1920s until the Carnation Revolution in 1974, what we had was mainly a Bonapartist regime seeking to carry out capitalist modernization, incorporating the peasantry and the working class while prohibiting trade unions and political parties. The state guaranteed certain companies monopoly control over a sector. There was also a regime of forced labor in the colonies.

    Daniel Finn

    What impact did the colonial wars in Africa have on Portugal itself?

    Raquel Varela

    The anti-colonial process began in 1961 with the uprising in Angola. At the same time, you had growing investment in Africa by US and European companies. They wanted the petrol and cotton in Angola as well as other materials in Mozambique that were important for this new moment of capital investment.

    In this context, the liberation movements in Portugal’s colonies were deeply influenced by anti-colonial revolutions and organizations in countries like Algeria and Ghana, which served as an inspiration for Guinea-Bissau, Angola, and Mozambique. In 1961, there was a strike by cotton workers in the forced-labor regime of Contanang, a Belgian-Portuguese company, in northern Angola.

    The Portuguese army responded by using napalm. We don’t know exactly how many workers were killed — the estimated figure is five to ten thousand. In response to this massacre, there was a massacre of white settlers in Angola.

    With tensions rising, the Soviet-influenced People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) decided to start an armed struggle against Portuguese rule. The armed struggle in Guinea-Bissau begin in 1963, after the defeat of a strike by the dockworkers. In Mozambique, it began in 1964 after another strike by forced laborers who came from several different parts of the country. There was a close relationship between Angola and Mozambique and the white-settler dictatorships in South Africa and Rhodesia, as workers from the Portuguese colonies were forced to go work in the mines in those countries.

    Portugal at the time had a population of fewer than ten million people. Between 1961 and 1974, 1.2 million people were recruited to fight in the colonial war. This included black people from the colonies, but a large part of this force came from Portugal itself. Practically all Portuguese families, unless they belonged to the upper class, had sons, nephews, or cousins who went to fight in Africa.

    Ten thousand Portuguese soldiers died, while two hundred thousand were injured. An estimated one hundred thousand people died in Angola, Mozambique, and Guinea-Bissau. This had a huge impact in Portugal. One and a half million workers escaped to countries like France, Luxembourg, and Switzerland, fleeing from poverty and enlistment in the war.

    At the same time, with greater foreign investment in Portugal, the urban population was now bigger than the rural one for the first time. This new urban population went massively to the cities of Lisbon, Porto, and Setubal, where they worked in big factories, most of which were joint enterprises of Portuguese and foreign capital. In the colonies, forced labor was officially abolished in 1961 but continued in practice until the demise of Portuguese rule in 1974–75.

    Amílcar Cabral in Guinea-Bissau was a very important leader who deserves to be better known. Together with Che Guevara and Morocco’s Mehdi Ben Barka, he played a very important role in developing an internationalist and socialist approach toward the struggle for national independence.

    Portugal was losing the war and was isolated on the international stage, with institutions like the UN favoring the end of colonialism. The desertion rate in the early 1970s was around 20 percent of soldiers in the army. At the same time, however, companies in France, Britain, and other countries continued to sell weapons to Portugal. About two-fifths of the state budget was being used to pay for the colonial war, in a country where people living on the outskirts of Lisbon had no access to running water and had to bring water to their homes by hand.

    Daniel Finn

    How did the Armed Forces Movement (MFA) take shape in response to the wars in Africa?

    Raquel Varela

    It was a movement of captains from the middle ranks of the army who were neither generals nor ordinary soldiers. They could understand that it was impossible to win the war militarily. They started off organizing in defense of their own corporate interests, but they later decided to mount a coup to end the colonial war. They also put forward a vague program of democratization.

    Their conspiracy involved around two hundred officers. They agreed to stage the coup of April 25, 1974. These officers mainly came from Guinea-Bissau, where the army was heavily defeated and the liberation movement had already declared independence, though without being recognized by the Portuguese state. There was involvement by officers from Angola and Mozambique as well.

    They organized themselves to mount a very successful coup. The regime did not know what was going to happen, and neither did the spies of the US embassy. It came as a huge surprise to people around the world. The MFA took control of the main military, communications, and transport sectors, telling people not to leave their homes.

    However, many people disobeyed these instructions, taking to the streets or going to their workplaces. Suddenly you had thousands of people in the streets, embracing the soldiers, with children playing on their tanks. Everyone was smiling and celebrating.

    The regime had forbidden trade unions and political parties. The Communist Party was organized as an underground party with around three thousand members. There were other left-wing groups, mainly Maoists but also some Trotskyist organizations and others inspired by the guerrillas of Latin America. Together these groups had another three thousand or so cadres, mostly coming from the universities and the opposition of young people to the colonial war.

    After Israel, Portugal was the country with the highest percentage of its population incorporated into the army anywhere in the world. The war in Africa was a key factor in the radicalization of young people and the development of Marxist intellectuals and leadership teams in Portugal.

    In the absence of legal parties or unions, the people themselves went to their workplaces: doctors, nurses, teachers, actors, factory workers. They began to elect their own representatives from popular assemblies, with a mandate that could be revoked if they did not carry out their instructions. Thus was born a situation of dual power, which is a feature of most revolutions.

    Within days of the revolution, you had the formation of workers’ commissions and neighborhood councils in the empty space left by the absence of unions and parties. Already on April 25, workers started going to the headquarters of the state censorship body and the political police, occupying those buildings and releasing prisoners.

    They also went to the headquarters of the state-sponsored trade unions and occupied them. They went to the municipal headquarters and began electing provisional commissions, while electing neighborhood commissions outside as well. These were incredible, beautiful days when we saw people making decisions in a way that they had never done before in their lives.

    First of all, a national salvation junta was formed under General António de Spínola, which was trying to keep the state intact. But Spínola wanted to maintain the political police in the colonies and move toward a situation of neocolonialism. The mid-ranking officers of the MFA were totally against this, as they wanted to stop the war immediately. This created a division inside the MFA between the pro-Spínola faction and their opponents, who were the majority and won out.

    The workers’ councils, known as commissions in Portugal, called a large number of strikes. There were two million people in the streets on May Day, the first one that could be celebrated in forty-eight years. They were putting forward demands for a minimum wage, an eight-hour working day, rest days on Saturday and Sunday, extra pay for night work, etc. These demands were already on the agenda in the streets a week after the revolution.

    Mario Soares was the leader of the Socialist Party, which had been founded in West Germany at the beginning of the 1970s. It was a vanguard party, like the Communists, but even smaller. The Socialists did not play an important role in the opposition to the dictatorship, unlike the Communist Party or the Maoists. But Soares had the support of the United States and the West German Social Democrats, who transferred large amounts of money to fund his party.

    Immediately there was a big discussion in Spain, which was still ruled by the Franco regime, about how to avoid what they called the contagious effect of the Portuguese Revolution through opening up the regime. In Greece, the dictatorship of the colonels fell in July 1974, and the first legal newspapers were celebrating the Carnation Revolution. The US president Gerald Ford spoke about the danger of a Red Mediterranean, because there were also big Communist Parties in France and Italy at the time.

    In this context, Soares and the Communist leader Álvaro Cunhal returned from exile, and they were invited to form the first provisional government. This government also included the right-wing party, which called itself the Social Democratic Party because of the impact of the revolution.

    They wanted to bring Cunhal and his party into the government in order to control the workers’ movement. In doing so, they broke the Cold War taboo against Communist participation in government, hoping that the coalition would be able to control the social movement, although that didn’t happen.

    Daniel Finn

    What were the main tendencies or differences of opinion that existed within the MFA itself?

    Raquel Varela

    The revolution developed and radicalized at the top. In 1975, the national banks were expropriated because they were under workers’ control. The big companies were also under workers’ control, and the small companies were under self-management — more than six hundred companies in total. The hospitals were run by doctors, nurses, and technicians. Even the cleaning lady had the vote in a hospital!

    Three million people out of a population of ten million were involved in workers’ commissions, protests, and strikes. This was an incredible figure. I think that Paul Sweezy was right to say that the Portuguese Revolution was a kind of twenty-first century revolution, because there was already a huge service sector, with the proletarianization of physicians, professors, and technicians, who played an incredible role in the workers’ councils.

    These all had a major impact on the MFA, which began to divide in line with the various projects that were being put forward in Portuguese society. One part of the MFA was supporting the strategy of the Communist Party to divide state power with the Socialists. Another part, led by Otelo Saraiva de Carvalho, was very engaged with the idea of popular power through workers’ commissions and neighborhood councils, and even with a Guevarist idea of a left-wing putsch. There was a clear process of “sovietization” in the army during 1975.

    There was also an element with the MFA that went to the right, and there were two attempts at right-wing coups that were defeated. In the part of the MFA that supported popular power, there were some who were aligned with the officials of the Communist Party. The party leadership accepted the division of Europe into spheres of influence with Portugal under NATO, so there was no support for a revolutionary process in Portugal, but they were disputing control of the state with the Socialists.

    I should mention that the Communist Party, having started off with three thousand members, had one hundred thousand after a year of the revolution. The Socialist Party, whose membership could almost have fitted in a taxi, now had eighty thousand members. The far-left groups could sell thousands of copies of their weekly publications. There was an intense process of politicization affecting the majority of Portuguese society, and this had a huge impact on the military.

    The strategy of the Communists and the Socialists at the beginning was to be in the state together and divide power, albeit with tensions. After the radicalization of the revolution in 1975 there was a split between them. But the big question was how to rebuild the state and end the crisis of the state, which could only have been achieved by weakening the workers’ and neighborhood councils.

    Daniel Finn

    What impact did the revolution have upon Portugal’s colonies?

    Raquel Varela

    Immediately, there were huge demonstrations, mainly of the far left, saying, “We don’t want even a single soldier to go to the colonies.” That was the main demand. After April 25, there were several strikes by railway workers and agricultural workers in Mozambique and Angola. The soldiers refused to carry on fighting. Guinea-Bissau first became independent, then Mozambique, and finally Angola, which attracted much more attention from the United States, the Soviet Union, and China because of its oil reserves.

    Daniel Finn

    Could you tell us a little more about the reaction of the United States and the major West European states to what was happening in Portugal? How did they seek to intervene over the course of 1974 and 1975?

    Raquel Varela

    There was a divide among US government officials. Henry Kissinger apparently did not agree with the view of Frank Carlucci, the US ambassador to Lisbon. Carlucci believed that all US support should be given to the Socialists in the elections of April 1975. This was the idea of what we might call the “democratic counterrevolution.”

    Instead of using the same approach that they used against Salvador Allende in Chile, which would merely have provoked the spread of the revolution to other countries in Europe, they promoted transitions guided from above, first in Portugal and then in Spain. Later the same model was applied in Chile, Brazil, and Argentina during the 1980s. I call this the “Soares Doctrine.”

    Jimmy Carter was very clear in supporting this idea of democratic counterrevolution. There were strong anti-American feelings rooted in Portuguese society, so the support for Soares was channeled through the West German Social Democrats and also through Spain, which always had a close relationship with Portugal.

    Portugal was definitely the cause of the Spanish transition to democracy — there is no question about that — and it had a huge impact on Greece. I believe that the Portuguese revolution also postponed the coming of neoliberalism for a decade, because of the example and inspiration that it gave people throughout southern Europe. Neoliberalism had to be postponed until the mid-1980s. Portugal’s revolution was isolated and that is why it was defeated, but it still had a major impact on the Mediterranean countries.

    Daniel Finn

    Along with that wider impact on the European scene, what would you say were the main legacies of the revolution for Portugal in subsequent decades and up to the present day?

    Raquel Varela

    Most of the people who made the revolution were in their twenties and thirties at the time. For the next forty years, these people were alive, and they were the majority. They were strong enough not to allow the extreme right to exist as a political force in Portugal. There were big improvements to health, education, and other public services, and social policies to encourage greater equality, although those services and policies have been in crisis over the last twenty years.

    The legacies of the revolution are complex, because some of them are contradictory. In revolutionary processes like the one in Portugal, you always have to try and identify what is the legacy of the revolution and what is the legacy of the counterrevolution.

    There were very important achievements in terms of the welfare state and workers’ rights. After the revolution was ultimately defeated by the coup of November 1975, we had a type of regulated capitalism for an important section of the working classes until the 1990s, or perhaps until 2008 for the older generation. After that point, virtually nobody was under protection.

    April 25 is the national day of celebration in Portugal for the popular classes. At the same time, we can see how backward the country is now, with so much poverty. Portugal has become a place of low wages and long working hours for everyone, even qualified workers. The working class cannot afford the cost of housing in the cities. In the south, you have workers from Nepal living in terrible conditions, working for British or Portuguese companies, staying here five years to get permission to go to Central Europe.

    This, of course, is not the legacy of the revolution — it is the legacy of the counterrevolution. Portugal is a small, semiperipheral country with a backward bourgeoisie that made a backward society. The one time that this country could give people a way to live decently was when the working class took their destinies into their own hands.

    This is the most incredible thing for us to study: how these people who were totally outside of politics, many of whom would have been conservative in their own lives, or had very confused ideas, suddenly became involved and transformed themselves while transforming the country. In my opinion, this is our hope for the future. When people take the country into their own hands, we see how far they can reach to transform it and transform themselves.

    #Portugal #révolution #anniversaire

  • Le massacre de Gaza sape la culture de la démocratie
    Par Enzo Traverso – Jacobin le 6 avril 2024 - traduction rédaction A l’Encontre
    source : https://jacobin.com/2024/04/gaza-genocide-holocaust-memory-democracy

    (...) Israël viole le droit international depuis des décennies et perpètre aujourd’hui un génocide à Gaza avec des armes fournies par les Etats-Unis et plusieurs pays européens. Ces puissances occidentales pourraient arrêter la guerre en quelques jours, mais elles sont incapables de refuser leur soutien à un gouvernement corrompu, d’extrême droite, composé de criminels de guerre, car ce gouvernement fait partie d’elles-mêmes, alors elles se contentent de recommandations et d’appels à la modération.

    Tous les grands médias occidentaux ont endossé sans réserve un récit sioniste qui célèbre sans vergogne l’histoire des uns et ignore ou nie celle des autres. En Europe et aux Etats-Unis, comme l’a fait remarquer Saïd, Israël n’est jamais traité comme un Etat, mais plutôt comme « une idée ou un talisman quelconque », intériorisé pour légitimer les pires abus au nom de principes moraux élevés.

    Des décennies d’occupation militaire, de harcèlement et de violence apparaissent ainsi comme l’autodéfense d’un Etat menacé, et la résistance palestinienne comme une manifestation de haine antisémite. Réinterprétée dans une perspective orientaliste, l’histoire juive se déroule comme un long martyre dans l’attente d’une rédemption bien méritée, et les Palestiniens deviennent un peuple sans histoire.

    Raison d’Etat

    Les étudiants pro-palestiniens sont dépeints comme des antisémites enragés dans la plupart des médias grand public. Dans plusieurs universités états-uniennes, ils ont été mis sur liste noire ou menacés de sanctions en raison de leur participation à des manifestations contre le génocide de Gaza. En Allemagne [interview d’Emily Dische-Becker, dans Jacobin le 23 mars 2024] et en Italie, des rassemblements ont été brutalement réprimés, tandis que le premier ministre français Gabriel Attal a annoncé des mesures sévères contre des militants pro-palestiniens.

    La mémoire de l’Holocauste est rituellement célébrée comme une religion civile dans l’Union européenne, et la défense d’Israël est devenue, comme Angela Merkel et Olaf Scholz l’ont affirmé à plusieurs reprises, la « Staatsraison » de la République fédérale d’Allemagne (RFA). Aujourd’hui, l’Allemagne invoque cette mémoire pour justifier le massacre des Palestiniens à Gaza. Après le 7 octobre, le pays est traversé par une atmosphère de chasse aux sorcières contre toute forme de solidarité avec la Palestine.

    Mais l’Allemagne n’est que l’expression paroxystique d’une tendance plus large. Cela explique pourquoi, notamment aux Etats-Unis, de nombreux Juifs ont élevé la voix pour dire « pas en mon nom ».

    Les références à la « raison d’Etat » sont à la fois curieuses et révélatrices d’un aveu implicite d’ambiguïté morale et politique. Comme le savent tous les spécialistes de la théorie politique, ce concept rappelle les côtés sombres et cachés du pouvoir politique. Habituellement identifiée à la pensée de Niccolo Machiavel, même si le terme lui-même n’apparaît pas dans ses écrits, la raison d’Etat signifie la transgression de la loi au nom d’impératifs supérieurs de sécurité de l’Etat.
    Derrière la raison d’Etat , ce n’est pas la démocratie qui se profile, mais Guantanamo.
    Ainsi, lorsque la RFA soutient Israël en invoquant la Staatsraison , elle admet implicitement l’immoralité de sa politique. Aujourd’hui, le soutien inconditionnel de l’Allemagne à Israël compromet la culture, la pédagogie et la mémoire démocratiques qui se sont construites au cours de plusieurs décennies, et notamment après le « Historikerstreit » au milieu des années 1980.

    Cette politique jette une ombre sur le Mémorial de l’Holocauste qui se dresse au cœur de Berlin et qui n’apparaît plus comme l’expression d’une conscience historique tourmentée et des vertus du souvenir, mais plutôt comme un imposant symbole d’hypocrisie.

    • 5 Questions à... Enzo Traverso | De l’usage politique de la mémoire collective de l’Holocauste
      CAREP Paris - 6 janv. 2024

      Commémorer l’Holocauste est l’occasion de rappeler à la mémoire collective les six millions de victimes majoritairement juives de l’oppression nazie. Si la commémoration de cette mémoire invite à réfléchir aux idéologies et aux actions qui conduisent aux génocides ou à des crimes contre l’humanité, elle nous invite aussi à réfléchir de manière critique à son détournement à des fins politiques. Parce qu’elle fait appel aux émotions plutôt qu’à la raison, la mobilisation de la mémoire par des politiques s’avère une stratégie intéressante à analyser.
      Dans cet entretien, l’historien italien Enzo Traverso, spécialiste du totalitarisme et des politiques de la mémoires, revient pour nous sur les effets dévastateurs de cette instrumentalisation politique de la mémoire de l’Holocauste à l’aune du conflit israélo-palestinien.

  • The Speech That Got Me Banned From Germany

    Ça y est, ils l’ont fait encore une fois. Après Rasmea Odeh, Khaled Barakat et d’autres militants de la cause palestinienne.c’est à l’ancien ministre des finances grec d’être interdit de séjour et déchu de son droit de libre expression par l’état allemand.


    C’est un avertissement à chacun qui voudrait se prononcer pour la fin du massacre des habitants de Gaza et pour une paix en Palestine sous des conditions différentes des idées du gouvernement d’extrême droite d’Israël. L’Allemagne fait désormais partie des états-pariah qui constituent un danger pour chaque personne ou institution qui entre en relation avec eux.

    13.4.2024 by Yanis Varoufakis - Today, Yanis Varoufakis was banned not just from visiting Germany but from participating in video conferences about politics hosted in Germany. Here’s the plea for humanity and justice in Palestine that got him banned.

    Congratulations and heartfelt thanks for being here — despite the threats, despite the ironclad police outside this venue, despite the panoply of the German press, despite the German state, despite the German political system that demonizes you for being here.

    “Why a Palestinian congress, Mr Varoufakis?” a German journalist asked me recently. Because, as Hanan Ashrawi once said, “we cannot rely on the silenced to tell us about their suffering.”

    Today, Ashrawi’s reason has grown depressingly stronger, because we cannot rely on the silenced who are also massacred and starved to tell us about the massacres and the starvation.

    But there is another reason, too: because a proud, decent people, the people of Germany, are led down a perilous road to a heartless society by being made to associate themselves with another genocide carried out in their name, with their complicity.

    I am neither Jewish nor Palestinian. But I am incredibly proud to be here among Jews and Palestinians — to blend my voice for peace and universal human rights with Jewish voices for peace and universal human rights, with Palestinian voices for peace and universal human rights. Being together here today is proof that coexistence is not only possible — but that it is here already.

    “Why not a Jewish congress, Mr Varoufakis?” the same German journalist asked me, imagining that he was being smart. I welcomed his question.

    For if a single Jew is threatened, anywhere, just because she or he is Jewish, I shall wear the Star of David on my lapel and offer my solidarity — whatever the cost, whatever it takes.

    So let’s be clear: if Jews were under attack, anywhere in the world, I would be the first to canvass for a Jewish congress in which to register our solidarity.

    Similarly, when Palestinians are massacred because they are Palestinians — under a dogma that to be dead and Palestinian, they must have been Hamas — I shall wear my keffiyeh and offer my solidarity whatever the cost, whatever it takes.

    Universal human rights are either universal or they mean nothing.

    With this in mind, I answered the German journalist’s question with a few of my own:

    Are two million Israeli Jews, who were thrown out of their homes and into an open-air prison eighty years ago, still being kept in that open-air prison, without access to the outside world, with minimal food and water, with no chance of a normal life or of traveling anywhere, while being bombed periodically for these eighty years? No.
    Are Israeli Jews being starved intentionally by an army of occupation, their children writhing on the floor, screaming from hunger? No.
    Are there thousands of Jewish injured children with no surviving parents crawling through the rubble of what used to be their homes? No.
    Are Israeli Jews being bombed by the world’s most sophisticated planes and bombs? No.
    Are Israeli Jews experiencing complete ecocide of what little land they can still call their own, with not one tree left under which they can seek shade or whose fruit they can taste? No.
    Are Israeli Jewish children killed by snipers today at the orders of a member state of the United Nations (UN)? No.
    Are Israeli Jews driven out of their homes by armed gangs today? No.
    Is Israel fighting for its existence today? No.

    If the answer to any of these questions were yes, I would be participating in a Jewish solidarity congress today.

    Today, we would have loved to have a decent, democratic, mutually respectful debate on how to bring peace and universal human rights to everyone — Jews and Palestinians, Bedouins and Christians — from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea with people who think differently from us.

    Sadly, the whole of the German political system has decided not to allow this. In a joint statement including not just the CDU-CSU (Christian Democratic Union–Christian Social Union in Bavaria) and the FDP (Free Democratic Party) but also the SPD (Social Democratic Party), the Greens, and, remarkably, two leaders of Die Linke (The Left), Germany’s political spectrum joined forces to ensure that such a civilized debate, in which we may disagree agreeably, never takes place in Germany.

    I say to them: you want to silence us, to ban us, to demonize us, to accuse us. You therefore leave us with no choice but to meet your ridiculous accusations with our own rational accusations. You chose this, not us.

    You accuse us of antisemitic hatred. We accuse you of being the antisemite’s best friend by equating the right of Israel to commit war crimes with the right of Israeli Jews to defend themselves.

    You accuse us of supporting terrorism. We accuse you of equating legitimate resistance to an apartheid state with atrocities against civilians which I have always and will always condemn, whoever commits them — Palestinians, Jewish settlers, my own family, whoever. We accuse you of not recognizing the duty of the people of Gaza to tear down the wall of the open prison they have been encased in for eighty years — and of equating this act of tearing down the wall of shame, which is no more defensible than the Berlin Wall was, with acts of terror.

    You accuse us of trivializing Hamas’s October 7 terror. We accuse you of trivializing the eighty years of Israel’s ethnic cleansing of Palestinians and the erection of an ironclad apartheid system across Israel-Palestine. We accuse you of trivializing Benjamin Netanyahu’s long-term support of Hamas as a means of destroying the two-state solution that you claim to favor. We accuse you of trivializing the unprecedented terror unleashed by the Israeli army on the people of Gaza, the West Bank. and East Jerusalem.

    You accuse the organizers of today’s congress of being, and I quote, “not interested in talking about possibilities for peaceful coexistence in the Middle East against the background of the war in Gaza.” Are you serious? Have you lost your mind?

    We accuse you of supporting a German state that is, after the United States, the largest supplier of the weapons that the Netanyahu government uses to massacre Palestinians as part of a grand plan to make a two-state solution, and peaceful coexistence between Jews and Palestinians, impossible. We accuse you of never answering the pertinent question that every German must answer: How much Palestinian blood must flow before your justified guilt over the Holocaust is washed away?

    So let’s be clear: we are here in Berlin with our Palestinian congress because, unlike the German political system and the German media, we condemn genocide and war crimes regardless of who is perpetrating them. Because we oppose apartheid in the land of Israel-Palestine no matter who has the upper hand — just as we opposed apartheid in the American South or in South Africa. Because we stand for universal human rights, freedom, and equality among Jews, Palestinians, Bedouins, and Christians in the ancient land of Palestine.

    And so that we are even clearer on the questions, legitimate and malignant, that we must always be ready to answer:

    Do I condemn Hamas’ atrocities?

    I condemn every single atrocity, whoever is the perpetrator or the victim. What I do not condemn is armed resistance to an apartheid system designed as part of a slow-burning but inexorable ethnic-cleansing program. Put differently, I condemn every attack on civilians while, at the same time, I celebrate anyone who risks their life to tear down the wall.

    Is Israel not engaged in a war for its very existence?

    No, it is not. Israel is a nuclear-armed state with perhaps the most technologically advanced army in the world and the panoply of the US military machine at its back. There is no symmetry with Hamas, a group that can cause serious damage to Israelis but has no capacity whatsoever to defeat Israel’s military, or even to prevent Israel from continuing to implement the slow genocide of Palestinians under the system of Apartheid that has been erected with long-standing US and European Union support.

    Are Israelis not justified to fear that Hamas wants to exterminate them?

    Of course they are! Jews have suffered a Holocaust that was preceded by pogroms and a deep-seated antisemitism permeating Europe and the Americas for centuries. It is only natural that Israelis live in fear of a new pogrom if the Israeli army folds. However, by imposing apartheid on their neighbors and by treating them like subhumans, the Israeli state is stoking the fires of antisemitism and strengthening Palestinians and Israelis who just want to annihilate each other. In the end, its actions contribute to the awful insecurity consuming Jews in Israel and the diaspora. Apartheid against the Palestinians is the Israelis’ worst self-defense.

    What about antisemitism?

    It is always a clear and present danger. And it must be eradicated, especially amongst the ranks of the global left and the Palestinians fighting for Palestinian civil liberties around the world.

    Why don’t Palestinians pursue their objectives by peaceful means?

    They did. The PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization) recognized Israel and renounced armed struggle. And what did they get for it? Absolute humiliation and systematic ethnic cleansing. That is what nurtured Hamas and elevated it the eyes of many Palestinians as the only alternative to a slow genocide under Israel’s apartheid.

    What should be done now? What might bring Peace to Israel-Palestine?

    An immediate cease-fire.
    The release of all hostages — Hamas’s and the thousands held by Israel.
    A peace process, under the UN, supported by a commitment from the international community to end apartheid and to safeguard equal civil liberties for all.
    As for what must replace apartheid, it is up to Israelis and Palestinians to decide between the two-state solution and the solution of a single federal secular state.

    Friends, we are here because vengeance is a lazy form of grief.

    We are here to promote not vengeance but peace and coexistence across Israel-Palestine.

    We are here to tell German democrats, including our former comrades of Die Linke, that they have covered themselves in shame long enough — that two wrongs do not one right make — and that allowing Israel to get away with war crimes is not going to ameliorate the legacy of Germany’s crimes against the Jewish people.

    Beyond today’s congress, we have a duty in Germany to change the conversation. We have a duty to persuade the vast majority of decent Germans out there that universal human rights are what matters. That never again means never again for anyone. Jewish, Palestinian, Ukrainian, Russian, Yemeni, Sudanese, Rwandan — for everyone, everywhere.

    In this context, I am pleased to announce that DiEM25’s German political party MERA25 will be on the ballot paper in the European Parliament election this coming June — seeking the vote of German humanists who crave a member of European Parliament representing Germany and calling out the EU’s complicity in genocide, a complicity that is Europe’s greatest gift to the antisemites in Europe and beyond.

    I salute you all and suggest we never forget that none of us is free if one of us is in chains.

    #Allemagne #Israël #Palestine #censure

  • Zionism Killed the Jewish-Muslim World -An interview with Ariella Aïsha Azoulay

    Jews in the town of Buqei’a, Palestine, circa 1930. (Keren Kayemet Leyisrael via Wikimedia Commons)

    11.4.2024 interview by Linda Xheza - In an interview with Jacobin, filmmaker and academic Ariella Aïsha Azoulay traces how Western powers’ exploitation of Zionism led not just to the ethnic cleansing of Palestine but to the demise of Jewish communities across the Middle East.

    Born in Israel, Ariella Aïsha Azoulay, a filmmaker, curator, and academic, rejects the identity of Israeli. Before becoming an Israeli at age nineteen, her mother was simply a Palestinian Jew. For much of history, there was nothing unusual in this combination of words. In Palestine, a Jewish minority lived peacefully alongside the Muslim majority for centuries.

    This changed with the Zionist movement and the foundation of Israel. The ethnic cleansing of Jews from Europe would lead, thanks to European Zionists, not only to that of Muslims from Palestine but of Jews from the rest of the Middle East, with nearly a million fleeing as a result of the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, many to Israel.

    In an interview with Jacobin, Azoulay contextualizes Israel’s genocide in Gaza in the long history of European and US imperialism. Azoulay is a professor of comparative literature at Brown and the author of Potential History: Unlearning Imperialism (Verso, 2019).

    Linda Xheza

    You identify as a Palestinian Jew. Could you tell us more about this? To many people these words stand in opposition.

    Ariella Aïsha Azoulay

    That these terms are understood as mutually exclusive, or in opposition, as you suggest, is a symptom of two centuries of violence. In a lapse of a few generations, diverse Jews who lived all over the world have been deprived of their various attachments to land, languages, communities, occupations, and forms of sharing the world.

    The question that should preoccupy us is not how to make sense of the supposed impossibility of Palestinian-Jewish identity but rather the reverse: How it is that the fabricated identity known as Israeli became recognized by many across the globe after the creation of the state in 1948 as an ordinary one? Not only does this identity obscure the history and memory of diverse communities and forms of Jewish life, but it also obscures the history and memory of what Europe did to the Jews in Europe and in Africa and Asia in its colonial projects.

    Israel has a shared interest with those imperial powers to obscure the fact that “the state of Israel was not created for the salvation of the Jews; it was created for the salvation of the Western interests,” as James Baldwin wrote in 1979 in his “Open Letter to the Born Again.” In his letter, Baldwin lucidly compares the Euro-American colonial project for the Jews with the US project for blacks in Liberia: “The white Americans responsible for sending black slaves to Liberia (where they are still slaving for the Firestone Rubber Plantation) did not do this to set them free. They despised them, and they wanted to get rid of them.”

    Prior to the proclamation of the State of Israel and its immediate recognition by the imperial powers, Palestinian-Jewish identity was one of many that existed in Palestine. The term “Palestinian” was not yet connotated with racialized meaning. My maternal ancestors, who were expelled from Spain in the late fifteenth century, ended up in Palestine before the Euro-Zionist movement began its actions there and before the movement gradually began conflating assisting Jews in response to antisemitic attacks in Europe with the imposition of a European-modeled project of colonization for Jews to partake in — a project not only construed as one of Jewish liberation but predicated upon European crusade against Arabs. Decolonization requires recovering the plural identities that once existed in Palestine and other places in the Ottoman Empire, notably ones whereby Jews and Muslims coexisted.

    Linda Xheza

    In your most recent film, The World Like a Jewel in the Hand, you discuss the destruction of a shared Muslim-Jewish world. You foreground a call by Jews who, in the late 1940s, rejected the European Zionist campaign and urged their fellow Jews to resist the destruction of Palestine. Given the recent destruction of lives, infrastructure, and monuments in Gaza, do you think it is still possible for Jews and Muslims to reclaim their shared world?

    Ariella Aïsha Azoulay

    First, the historical part. Zionists have sought to forever erase this call by anti-Zionist Jews from our memories. These Jewish elders were part of a Jewish-Muslim world, and they didn’t want to depart from it. They warned against the danger Zionism posed to Jews like them across this world that existed between North Africa and the Middle East, including in Palestine.

    We must recall that until the end of World War II, Zionism was a marginal and unimportant movement among Jewish peoples around the world. Hence, until that time, our elders didn’t even have to oppose Zionism; they could simply ignore it. It was only after World War II, when the surviving Jews in Europe — who were mostly not Zionists prior to the war — had almost nowhere to go, that Euro-American imperial powers seized the opportunity to support the Zionist project. For them, it was a viable alternative to having Jews remain in Europe or migrate to the United States, and they used the international organs they created to accelerate its realization.

    In so doing, they propagated the lie that their actions constituted a Jewish liberation project, while, in actuality, this project perpetuated the eradication of diverse Jewish communities far beyond Europe. And even worse, Jewish liberation was leveraged as a license and reason to destroy Palestine. This could not have been pursued without a growing number of Jews becoming Europe’s mercenaries: Jews who had migrated to Palestine while fleeing from or after surviving genocide in Europe, the Palestinian Jews who predated the arrival of the Zionists, and those Jews who were lured to come to Palestine or left with no other choice but to depart from the Muslim-Jewish world since Israel was established, with a clear agenda, to be an anti-Muslim and anti-Arab state — all were encouraged by Europe and European Zionists to see Arabs and Muslims as their enemies.

    We should not forget that Muslims and Arabs were never the enemies of the Jews and, moreover, that many of these Jews living in the majority-Muslim world were themselves Arabs. It is only with the creation of the State of Israel that these two categories — Jews and Arabs — became mutually exclusive.

    The destruction of this Jewish-Muslim world following World War II enabled the invention of a Judeo-Christian tradition, which would become, from that moment on, a reality, since Jews no longer lived outside of the Christian Western world. The survival of a Jewish regime in Israel required more settlers, and thus Jews of the Muslim-Jewish world were forced to leave to become part of this ethnostate. Detached and deprived of their rich and diverse histories, they could be socialized to this role assigned to them by Europe — mercenaries of this settler-colonial regime to restore Western power in the Middle East.

    Understanding this historical context doesn’t reduce the Zionist perpetrators’ responsibility for the crimes they committed against Palestinians over the decades; rather, it reminds one of Europe’s role in the destruction and extermination of Jewish communities mainly, but not only, in Europe, and its role in handing over Palestine to the Zionists, the alleged representatives of the survivors of this genocide who formed a Western post for these same European actors in the Middle East.

    Paradoxically, the only place in the world where Jews and Arabs — most of whom are Muslims — share the same piece of land today is between the river and the sea. But since 1948, this place has been defined by genocidal violence. The urgent questions now are how to stop the genocide and how to halt the introduction of more arms to this area.

    In Eichmann in Jerusalem, Hannah Arendt describes the contradictory sentiments felt by Jewish survivors of the Holocaust during the years they spent in camps for displaced persons in Europe. On the one hand, she said, the last thing they could imagine was to live once again with the perpetrators; on the other hand, she said, the thing they wanted most was to return to their places. It should not surprise us that after this genocide in Gaza, Palestinians may not be able to imagine sharing a world with their perpetrators, the Israelis. However, is that a proof that this world, where Arabs and Zionist Jews found themselves together, should also be destroyed to rebuild Palestine out of the ashes? It is only under the Euro-American imperial political imagination that a tragedy on the scale of World War II and the Holocaust could have ended with such brutal solutions as partitions, population transfers, ethno-independence, and the destruction of worlds.

    We, on a global scale, have an obligation to claim what I’ve called the right not to be a perpetrator and exercise it in any possible way. Dockworkers who refuse to ship arms to Israel, students who commit themselves to hunger strikes to pressure their universities to divest, Jews who disrupt with their communities and families and reclaim their ancestral rights to be and speak as anti-Zionists, protesters who occupy state buildings and train stations and risk being arrested — they are all motivated by this right even if they do not articulate it in these terms. They understand the role their governments, and more broadly the regimes under which they are governed as citizens, play in the perpetuation of this genocide, and they understand, as the common slogan says, that it is done in their name.

    Linda Xheza

    Those calling for a cease-fire are also Jewish. But even Jewish voices are being silenced. In Germany, for example, the work of well-established Jewish artists has been canceled. Do you think there is an interest in reinforcing a dominant narrative that has been in place since 1948 by the West and the State of Israel while suppressing Jewish voices that oppose the violence perpetrated in their name?

    Ariella Aïsha Azoulay

    It is true that Jewish voices are being silenced, but this is hardly anything new. Jewish voices were silenced immediately after World War II, when the survivors were left with no choice but to stay for years in deracinated camps. During that time, properties looted from their communities, rather than being either restituted to the places in Europe from where they were spoiled, were split by the National Library in Jerusalem and the Library of Congress in Washington like trophies. And not only was the collective trauma of the survivors — and us, their descendants — not attended to, we were silenced through this lie of a liberation project premised on a Zionist narrative of liberation through the colonization of Palestine, which would in turn provide Euro-American powers with another colony to service their imperial interests.

    The exceptionalization of the suffering of the Jews was not a Jewish discursive project but a Western one, part of the exceptionalization of the genocidal violence of the Nazis. In the grand narrative of Western triumph over this ultimate force of evil, the State of Israel became an emblem of Western fortitude and marked the endurance of the Euro-American imperial project. Within this grand narrative, Jews were forced to transform from traumatized survivors into perpetrators. Jews from all over the world were sent to win a demographic battle, without which the Israeli regime could not last. The second and third generations born to this project were born with no histories or memories of their anti-Zionist or non-Zionist ancestors, let alone memories of the other worlds of which their ancestors were part. What’s more, they were totally dissociated from the history of what Palestine used to be and from its destruction. Thus, they were easy prey for a nation-state marketed by the Zionists and Euro-American powers as the culmination of Jewish liberation.

    The Nakba, in this sense, was not only a genocidal campaign against Palestinians but also, at the same time, one against Jews, upon whom Europe forced another “solution” after the final one. Without the massive imperial powers’ funding and arms, the mass killing in Gaza would have ceased after a short while, and the Israelis would have to ask themselves what they were doing, how they arrived to this point, and would be forced to reckon with October 7 and ask themselves why it happened and how to achieve a sustainable life for everyone between the river and the sea.

    Jewish voices in places like Germany or France continue to be the first to be silenced in order to maintain both the Zionist colony and the fabricated cohesiveness of one Jewish people who could be represented by forces that sustain the Euro-American project of white supremacy. No more. The genocidal nature of the Israeli regime is exposed and can no longer be hidden from anyone.

    Linda Xheza

    Do you think there is still a possibility of hope for the Palestinians, and for the rest of us who want to claim a world to share with others?

    Ariella Aïsha Azoulay

    If there is no hope for Palestinians, there is no hope for any of us. The battle of Palestine exceeds Palestine, and the many who protest all around the world know it.

    • Je suis preneur pour des précisions sur les erreurs dans le texte.

      Cette histoire est un processus qu’on ne peut comprendre qu’en remontant jusqu’à la reconquista.


      Je ne suis pas spécialiste de la question alors j’ai noté l’article comme plein d’autres texte intéressants. D’ailleurs ce qui peut paraître comme situation insupportable aux uns peut bien se rapprocher d’un contexte justifiable ou idéal aux autres. Dans la cas présent on peut sans doute retenir qu’il y eu cohabitation entre juifs et musulmans en Afrique du nord et quelle était souvent plus supportable pour les juifs que la situation en Europe où on chassait les sorcières et pendait les prêteurs juifs quand on n’avait pas envie de les rembourser.

    • Je ne dis pas qu’il y a des erreurs dans ce texte -que j’avais également retenu pour son intérêt- mais qu’il élude la position minoritaire et dominée des Juifs dans les états musulmans, et les humiliations et conflits subis, qui ne découlent pas, compris indirectement des méfaits, bien plus terribles en effet, des états catholiques européens (il y a décidément plusieurs manières d’être occidentalo-centré)

      Que tu conclues en renvoyant les Juifs d’Europe au maniement et à la possessions de l’argent est éloquent. (il serait temps de situer avec précision_La question juive_ (1843) de Marx dans son parcours intellectuel et politique ; voir Rubel, Bensaïd).

      Les Juifs d’Europe ont dès le VIeme siècle interdiction de travailler la terre (chrétienne), tandis que les dhimmis juifs subissent celle, moins lourde, de monter à cheval et se voient eux-aussi, à l’occasion, imposer des vêtements distinctifs, comme ce fut le cas, à l’occasion là-aussi, en Europe.
      L’interdiction de travailler la terre c’est l’interdiction d’assurer sa subsistance sans en passer par l’argent comme moyen d’échange, de vendre le fruit d’un autre travail qu’agricole.

      Minoritaire, les Juifs ne l’étaient pas assez pour être tous impliqués dans des activités financière, bien loin de là ! On en trouve en Europe au fil des siècles, des floppées, une grande majorité, dans des métiers artisanaux et de petit commerce, sans lien avec « la finance », et bien souvent pauvres, voire très pauvres.

      La naissance d’une légende : Juifs et finance dans l’imaginaire bordelais du XVIIe siècle

      Les juifs dans le Paris du vêtement et de la mode (avec une longue liste de métiers pratiqués, y compris hors textile)

      #Juifs #Juifs-arabes

  • The Cost of Germany’s Guilt Politics

    La folie règne. Donc il y a de l’espoir, rien que ça.

    23.3.2024 - An interview with Emily Dische-Becker

    Germany has, in the name of fighting antisemitism, embraced a strange philosemitism and proxy Israeli nationalism, which involves demonizing and suppressing expressions of Palestinian identity and anti-Zionism in the guise of Holocaust remembrance. Consequently, leftist Jews often find themselves being lectured to about antisemitism by the descendants of people who murdered Jews.

    #Allemagne #antisemitisme #wtf

  • Contre la décroissance néo-mathusienne, défendre le marxisme

    Face au désastre écologique provoqué par la croissance, il faut ralentir. Face aux dégâts générés par les grands projets industriels, il faut se recentrer sur l’échelon local. Contre un techno-solutionnisme prométhéen, il faut oeuvrer à la sobriété par le bas. Ces slogans sont emblématiques de la pensée « décroissante », en particulier telle que la théorise l’auteur à grand succès Kohei Saito. Son oeuvre, au retentissement considérable, prétend s’inscrire dans l’héritage marxiste. Mais bien loin de prolonger le Capital, elle reconduit les postulats malthusiens des adversaires de Karl Marx. Et contient des directives stratégiques catastrophiques pour les écologistes. Par Matt Huber, professeur de géographie à l’Université de Syracuse, auteur de Climate Change as Class War (Verso, 2022) et Leigh Philipps, journaliste et auteur de Austerity Ecology [1].

    NDLR : cet article, critique de la décroissance, ne reflète pas l’opinion de l’ensemble de la rédaction du Vent Se Lève en la matière – un article favorable à cette notion a notamment été publié ici. De même, les analyses de John Bellamy Foster et de Kohei Saito, critiquées dans l’article qui suit, ont été analysés de manière approbative ici et ici.

    Presque chaque jour, les gros titres nous livrent de nouvelles manifestations de la cherté de la vie quotidienne pour des millions de personnes – de l’inflation (tirée par les profits) à la crise du logement en passant par l’envolée des coûts de l’éducation et de la santé. Dans le monde capitaliste avancé, depuis plus de quatre décennies, les travailleurs ont souffert des attaques contre les services publics, de la désindustrialisation, d’emplois de plus en plus précaires, de salaires en stagnation.

    Pourtant, un nombre croissant d’écologistes en viennent à affirmer qu’en raison de la crise climatique, les travailleurs consommeraient… trop. Qu’ils devraient se serrer la ceinture pour permettra la « décroissance » de l’économie occidentale afin de respecter les limites planétaires. Les partisans de la « décroissance » mettent en avant les compensations qu’ils obtiendraient en échange : une multitude de nouveaux programmes sociaux et une réduction de la semaine de travail.

    Pour autant, puisque les travailleurs des pays riches sont des acteurs du « mode de vie impérialiste » – partenaires, avec la classe capitaliste, de l’exploitation des travailleurs et des ressources du Sud – ils devront, selon le théoricien japonais du « communisme décroissant » Kohei Saito, abandonner « leur style de vie extravagant ». Ils ne sont pas exploités et précaires, mais plutôt « protégés par l’invisibilité des coûts de [leur] mode de vie ».

    Il semble à première vue incohérent de souhaiter une organisation victorieuse des travailleurs pour conquérir des salaires plus élevés, tout précisant que leur mode de vie est non seulement extravagant, mais carrément impérial. Aussi cet enthousiasme pour l’idéologie de la décroissance ne semble-t-il compatible ni avec un horizon socialiste, ni avec une perspective syndicale, et encore moins avec la critique marxiste du capitalisme.

    Pourtant, les idées de Saito – qui ne se contente pas de suggérer une hybridation entre décroissance et marxisme, mais proclame également que Marx était le théoricien originel de la décroissance ! -, ont trouvé un grand écho parmi la gauche écologiste non marxiste, et même les « éco-marxistes » auto-proclamés.

    Doit-on réellement abandonner la critique marxiste du malthusianisme (que l’on définira ici comme une adhésion à la thèse de limites fixes à la croissance), ainsi que l’horizon marxiste d’une « libération de la production » des contraintes irrationnelles du marché ? La popularité des thèses de Saito impose d’interroger ces lignes directrices. Et de constater l’incompatibilité entre une perspective décroissante et une perspective marxiste traditionnelle – qui apparaît bien plus clairement que les assertions selon lesquelles les travailleurs des pays développés auraient un mode de vie « impérialiste » et participeraient à la dégradation écologique...

  • Italy’s Far-Right Government Is Relitigating World War II

    L’Italie ériges des monuments pour les fascistes italiens exécutés et tués pendant les derniers combats avec les partisans yougoslaves .

    10.2.2024 by DAVID BRODER - Far-right Italian premier Giorgia Meloni likes to claim her party has “left fascism in the past.” Yet the announcement of a new museum honoring Italian victims of Yugoslav partisans represents a disturbing attempt to rewrite the history of World War II.

    The foibe are, most literally, sinkholes. Often hundreds of meters deep, these shafts pockmark the borderlands between Italy and the former Yugoslavia. For centuries, the foibe in these provinces, known as the Julian March, were used to dispose of waste. In two World Wars, they filled up with destroyed equipment and dead horses — but also human bodies. Today, the word foibe is most habitually used to evoke murdered Italians thrown into these shafts.

    February 10 is the anniversary of the Allies’ 1947 Paris peace treaty with Italy, which had to hand these border territories to Yugoslavia, after Fascism’s failed attempt to dismember that country. Since 2005, this date has also been an official Remembrance Day marked by the Italian Republic. Each February 10, institutional figures and memorial groups meet at the foiba in Basovizza, just outside Trieste, to honor Italians killed by Yugoslav partisans, as well as those who left Yugoslav-annexed areas over the following decade.

    After rising historical research starting in the 1980s, in recent decades the foibe killings have become a central focus of Italian public debate. The dissolution of the Italian Communist Party in 1991, the rise of Berlusconian right-wing politics, but also the breakup of Yugoslavia, all troubled antifascist narratives and fed a rival focus on “the defeated,” whose side of the story was exalted in schlocky but mass-market pop-history books. Last week, Giorgia Meloni’s government announced the foundation of a new, public-funded museum in Rome, honoring foibe victims’ memory.

    This is outwardly about balancing the record — challenging a supposedly monolithic and one-sided anti-fascist “vulgate” of Italy’s past. Press agency ANSA (Agenzia Nazionale Stampa Associata) reports that the museum will recognize a story of “ethnic cleansing” against Italians, a “tragedy . . . swept under the carpet by anti-Fascists in the postwar years.” But to understand what’s happening, we also ought to know that this past isn’t only just being rediscovered. Rather, a highly selective version of the foibe story is an old battle horse of World War II revisionism, rising over the decades from a subculture to a dominant narrative.

    Snapshot of Reality

    All public institutions choose to honor some people over others: to take some for heroes, others for victims, and some of the dead generations as best ignored. Just as Confederate statues are not a residue of the Civil War itself but largely a product of the Jim Crow era or resistance against civil rights, the public commemoration of World War II is also deeply shaped by latter-day politics. It rarely conforms to some abstract idea of the historical record or scholarly research.

    This is quite evident in modern Italian right-wingers’ way of talking about their own Lost Cause. As scholar Eric Gobetti suggests, a narrow focus on Italian victims of Yugoslav partisans is overshadowing Fascist Italy’s own role in bringing violence to this region. Gobetti moreover notes that foibe victims — Italians supposedly targeted by “ethnic cleansing” — were far fewer in number than the Italians who died in Yugoslavia as anti-fascists fighting alongside Josip Broz Tito’s partisans.

    Gobetti’s book E allora le foibe? tells us that national strife didn’t begin in 1945 but had already spiked after World War I, as nation-states divided territories hitherto under Austro-Hungarian rule. If back then the region’s biggest city, Trieste, had a two-thirds Italian-speaking majority, the hinterland was much more diverse, and Italian state power and the Italian language had to be imposed by force. This struggle made the region an early center of Fascist street violence, even before the Fascists took over government in late 1922.

    In 1941, Benito Mussolini’s regime went further, invading Yugoslavia as an ally of Nazi Germany. The Axis powers and their local collaborators captured large swaths of Balkan territory, cementing their control through mass deportations, reprisals, and anti-insurgency operations. In total, the war and occupation killed one million Yugoslavs, including in Italian army atrocities like the Podhum massacre. But Mussolini’s empire didn’t last — and the Yugoslav partisans, led by Tito’s Communists, eventually beat the Italian Fascist forces back across the prewar border.

    Italy’s military collapse in autumn 1943 and — after a period of direct Nazi German rule — the Yugoslav partisans’ eventual victory in spring 1945 were each followed by waves of violence. These are the moments that foibe Remembrance Day focuses upon. The crumbing of the Italian state in its borderlands fueled widespread social violence, from peasant uprisings to more individual score settling — but also more targeted repression by the new Yugoslav Communist authorities.

    Raoul Pupo, the best-known scholar of this history, estimates that as many as five thousand Italians were killed in these two moments, most of them in the second phase in 1945. Other historians reach lower totals, in particular those who rely on lists of known victims; right-wing politicians venture much higher figures, without evidence. Yet more controversial is their honoring of the dead as “martyrs.”

    An Italian Anne Frank?

    Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini has often equated foibe victims and Jews killed in the Holocaust. At several recent commemorations he has repeated that “there are no dead Serie A and dead Serie B,” whether at Auschwitz or in the foibe. Like him, today’s prime minister, Giorgia Meloni, has also often spoken of these Italians as “martyrs.” But it’s not only right-wingers doing this. In 2007, one center-left president denounced a suppressed history of anti-Italian “ethnic cleansing.” An Education Ministry information pack for schools issued in 2022 claimed that Italians were eliminated “just as Jews had been across Europe.”

    Ahead of foibe Remembrance Day 2023, I met historian Pupo in Trieste. In the 1980s a leading Christian Democrat in the city, Pupo reports that the words “ethnic cleansing” became widespread during the 1990s breakup of Yugoslavia but don’t well explain the events of 1943–45. His account pivots on the creation of a new political regime, which crushed domestic opponents as well as representatives of the defeated Italian state power. Tito’s forces executed some tens of thousands of domestic enemies — mostly Nazi collaborationists, monarchist soldiers, and other potential oppositionists. Lists of the Italian dead are patchy, but Fascist party officials, policemen, and landowners count heavily among known victims.

    Despite the widespread language of “ethnic cleansing,” a tiny minority of known foibe victims were women or children. Yet the best known of all victims is Norma Cossetto, upon her death in October 1943 the twenty-three-year-old daughter of a local Fascist leader. Although a member of Fascist student circles she had no important role in the regime, and reports that she was raped before being murdered are widely cited as emblematic of Yugoslav cruelty. In 2019, public broadcaster RAI (Radiotelevisione italiana) screened Red Land, a dramatized account of her final weeks. A graphic novel about Cossetto, from a publisher attached to neofascist group CasaPound, has been widely issued in schools. Some accounts even present Cossetto as an “Italian Anne Frank.” This past November, Arezzo’s town council created a joint tribute to Cossetto and the Jewish teenager, as two symbols of violence against women.

    Such “both-sidesism,” often applying the familiar imagery of the Holocaust to the foibe, is today widespread. Meloni’s Fratelli d’Italia party has called for the existing ban on Holocaust denial to be extended to the foibe. Some regional governments have passed laws against “denialism” or “playing down” the supposed anti-Italian “ethnic cleansing.” While Pupo is among the most dedicated historians of the foibe, in 2019 he was labeled a “minimizer” by the Friuli-Venezia Giulia regional authorities after he coauthored a text that rejected the term “ethnic cleansing.” Even baseless claims and implausible victim counts, challenged by almost all professional historians, risk becoming politically mandated truths.

    Endangered Species

    The government-announced foibe museum in Rome, with €8 million pledged by the Culture Ministry, appears designed to uphold this version of events, centered on the idea that “Italians were killed just for being Italians.” Meloni’s party often critiques left-wing anti-fascism by claiming that it’s time to recognize victims “on both sides.” Yet this equivalence is deeply flawed. The prominence given to the foibe does not correct the historical record or honor the dead in general, but provides nationalists with a sweeping myth of Italian victimhood, which ignores the historical factors behind the killings.

    The February 10 Remembrance Day falls fourteen days after Holocaust Memorial Day, making this fortnight a common battleground over the past. Some town halls jointly commemorate “the martyrs of the foibe and the Holocaust.” Even apart from the offensiveness of the equation between (often Fascist) Italians and Holocaust victims, the pairing of the two also glibly erases other Italian crimes, notably in Yugoslavia itself. As the anniversary of the 1947 Paris peace treaty, February 10 also happens to be the anniversary of Italy finally renouncing its colonial claims in Africa. Yet there is no day to honor the victims of Italian colonialism.

    As I argue in Mussolini’s Grandchildren, this rewriting of history does not center on venerating the Fascist regime or — still less — on reviving historical territorial claims. Rather, the real aim is to erase the residual political legacy of the Resistance and the anti-fascist parties who founded the Republic in 1946. Claiming that militant anti-fascism served as a repressive ideology in postwar decades, Meloni has explicitly compared the reappraisal of foibe history to efforts to draw public attention to members of the neofascist MSI (Movimento Sociale Italiano) killed by leftists in the 1970s.

    This approach habitually cites the need for historical “pacification,” able to integrate Italian victims of all political sides into a single national story. Yet this outwardly benign intention of piety for the dead also suppresses important historical realities. We saw this last March, upon the anniversary of the 1944 massacre at Rome’s Fosse Ardeatine, in which the Nazis and their Italian Fascist helpers murdered 335 political prisoners and Jews, massacred in an anti-partisan reprisal. Prime Minister Meloni sparked controversy by falsely claiming that the 335 were killed “just because they were Italian.”

    Meloni has used this same phrase with regard to foibe victims. Yet the evidence suggests that Fascists and other representatives of Italian political and economic power made up most of the dead. Some seem unembarrassed by this. Before Remembrance Day 2023, a group of relatives and admirers of Nazi collaborationist paramilitary force Decima MAS staged a commemoration in Gorizia. Local officials welcomed them into the municipal buildings. Last month, Roberto Menia, the veteran Fratelli d’Italia senator who sponsored the original foibe Remembrance Day bill, called for plaques to be set for two Fascist senators “murdered by Tito’s partisans” in 1945.

    This isn’t just an Italian story. Across Central and Eastern Europe, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has fueled battles over the legacy of 1945, in many cases providing an opportunity to polish the image of anti-Soviet nationalists even if they were Nazi collaborators. Italy’s right-wing parties are doing something similar, casting Italians as innocents caught in between Nazis and communists, while soft-pedaling homegrown Fascist crimes.

    This isn’t just about the past. For the focus on Italians as a “victim group” is also well designed to dovetail with more present-day identity politics. Ignazio La Russa, today president of the Senate, marked one recent foibe Remembrance Day tweeting that “the worst racism” is the Left’s “ideological racism against Italians. Yesterday [it was] in favor of Stalin and Tito, today against Italians who want controls on immigration and the Islamic threat.” Mussolini’s heirs surely don’t want to rebuild his empire. But they do want to have Italians recognized as an endangered species.

    #Italie #histoire #fascisme

  • There Was an Iron Wall in Gaza

    Dans cet article nous apprenons l’histoire du mouvement palestinien, du développement de la politique sioniste et des approches égyptiennes au problème introduit dans la région par la fondation de l’état d’Israël. C’est une lecture obligatoire pour chacune et chacun qui ne sait pas expliquer dans le détail les événements depuis 1945 et le rôle des acteurs historiques. Attention, l’article contient quelques déscriptions d’atrocités qu’on préfère ne pas lire juste avant de prendre son petit déjeuner.

    4.1.2024 byy Seth Ackerman - In a 1948 essay, “The Twilight of International Morality,” the international relations theorist Hans Morgenthau looked back at the bygone style of diplomacy practiced by the old aristocratic states of Europe — what might be called “traditional Realpolitik” — and ventured a contrarian argument: that behind its amoral facade and despite its reputation for cynicism and duplicity, it was always grounded in an inviolable ethical code.

    He considered Otto von Bismarck, the German avatar of nineteenth-century Realpolitik, and contrasted him with Adolf Hitler. Both men had faced the same stubborn problem: the fact of Germany’s “encirclement” by dangerous neighbors, France to the west and Russia to the east.

    But whereas Bismarck “accepted the inevitability of that fact and endeavored to turn it to Germany’s advantage,” through an intricate and sometimes devious Realpolitik diplomacy, Hitler, being “free of the moral scruples which had compelled Bismarck to accept the existence of France and Russia,” set out, quite simply, to annihilate them both.

    Whether this difference was really attributable to “moral scruple” or not can be debated; Bismarck’s foreign policy was a practical success, after all, while Hitler’s obviously wasn’t. But Morgenthau had put his finger on a useful and important distinction.

    The “Bismarck method” and the “Hitler method” can be thought of as two alternative ways of dealing with danger in the world. The first is the method of Realpolitik, which accepts power realities for what they are; assumes coexistence with enemies to be, for better or worse, permanent and unavoidable; and for that reason prefers, wherever possible, to defuse threats by searching for areas of common interest, employing the minimum quantum of violence necessary to achieve vital objectives.

    The second method is animated by an ideologically driven demonology of one type or another — an obsession with monsters that must be destroyed — coupled with an insatiable craving for what Henry Kissinger, in a well-known aphorism, called “absolute security”: “The desire of one power for absolute security,” he wrote in his 1954 doctoral dissertation on the diplomacy of Austrian diplomat Klemens von Metternich, “means absolute insecurity for all the others.”
    United Behind Israel

    Since October 7, every voice of authority in the West, from Joe Biden on down — in the foreign ministries, the think tanks, the major media — has united behind Israel’s declared objective to “crush and eliminate” Hamas. Its commando strike through Israel’s Gaza “iron wall” and the spree of atrocities against civilians that accompanied it are said to have voided whatever legitimacy the group might once have been accorded. A demand for Hamas’s total defeat and eradication is — for now, anyway — official policy in the United States, the European Union, and the other G7 nations.

    The problem, however, is that Hamas, which won 44 percent of the vote in the last Palestinian legislative elections, is a mass political party, not just an armed group, and neither can in fact be eradicated “militarily.” As long as Hamas exists, attempting to permanently exclude it from Palestinian politics by foreign diktat is guaranteed not only to fail but to sow unending chaos.

    Because the Hamas-must-go policy is unachievable and unsustainable, it is fated to be temporary, and the only question is how long it will take the world’s leaders to recognize their mistake and how much damage will be done in the meantime.

    In Afghanistan it took the United States twenty years, across three administrations, to summon the nerve to admit that it couldn’t defeat the Taliban. Despite the nearly three thousand who died on American soil at the hands of the Taliban’s al-Qaeda “guests,” the US realized in the end that it had no better option than to talk to the group and make a deal. When an accommodation was finally reached, in 2020, it was — in classic Realpolitik fashion — based on a common interest in defeating a mutual enemy, namely ISIS. In exchange for a commitment from the Taliban not to allow its territory to be used as a base for foreign terrorist operations, the United States withdrew its forces in 2021 and the Taliban is now in power in Kabul.

    But Gaza can’t afford to wait twenty years for Biden and company to come to their senses; given the pace of Israel’s killing machine, the last surviving Palestinian there will be long dead by then.

    All his life, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has spoken publicly and privately of his dream that Israel might someday get an opportunity to finish the job of 1948 and rid the Land of Israel of its masses of Palestinian interlopers. He expounded on this theme one evening in Jerusalem in the late 1970s to an appalled dinner guest, the military historian Max Hastings, who recounted the conversation in his memoirs; and he returned to the theme on the floor of the Knesset a decade later, after the Tiananmen Square massacre, when he lamented Israel’s failure to have seized the moment while the world’s attention was focused on China, to carry out a “mass expulsion of the Arabs.”

    Now, thanks to a fortuitous convergence of circumstances — a vengeful public, a far-right governing coalition, and, most importantly, a compliant US president — Netanyahu has been given another chance, and he’s not letting the opportunity slip away.

    Israel has explained what it’s doing in plain language. No one can claim they didn’t know. Through a combination of mass-casualty terror bombing — what Robert Pape of the University of Chicago, a leading scholar of coercive air power, has called “one of the most intense civilian punishment campaigns in history” — the destruction of hospitals and other critical infrastructure, and a near-total blockade of humanitarian supplies, it is working “to create conditions where life in Gaza becomes unsustainable,” in the words of Major General (Ret.) Giora Eiland, an adviser to the current defense minister.

    Israel, in other words, is grimly marching Morgenthau’s argument to its logical conclusion — proving, before the eyes of the world, that the final and most fundamental alternative to Realpolitik is genocide.
    Speak of the Devil

    In a 2008 article published by the Israel Council on Foreign Relations, Efraim Halevy, one of the more pragmatic Realpolitikers in Israel’s security establishment, aired his qualms about the prevailing Israeli approach to dealing with Gaza and its rulers.

    A former head of the Mossad, director of Israel’s national security council, and ambassador to the European Union, Halevy had worked on the Hamas file for many years, and his message was blunt: Hamas wasn’t going away anytime soon. Israel would therefore do well to find a way to make the group “a factor in a solution” rather than a perpetually “insurmountable problem.”

    Since the notion of Hamas as a solution to anything was bound to jar the reader’s preconceptions, Halevy took care to lay out a few relevant facts.

    He explained, first, that whatever the group’s founding documents might say, twenty years of contact with real-world politics had educated Hamas in the realities of power, and it was now “more than obvious to Hamas that they have no chance in the world to witness the destruction of the State of Israel.”

    Consequently, the group’s leaders had reverted to a more achievable goal: rather than Israel’s destruction, they sought its withdrawal to its 1967 borders, in exchange for which Hamas would agree to an extended armistice — “a thirty-year truce,” Halevy called it — which the group said it would respect and even help enforce, and which could eventually be made permanent if the parties so desired.

    Second, although Hamas’s leaders were adamant that Hamas would not recognize Israel or talk to it directly, they didn’t object to Mahmoud Abbas doing so, and they declared themselves ready, according to Halevy, “to accept a solution negotiated [by Abbas] with Israel if it were approved in a national Palestinian referendum.”

    Two years earlier, Hamas had prevailed in Palestinian elections by emphasizing its pragmatism and willingness to respect the two-state center-ground of Palestinian public opinion. That decision had represented a victory for the moderates within the organization. One of them, Riad Mustafa, a Hamas parliamentary deputy representing Nablus, explained the group’s position in a 2006 interview:

    I say unambiguously: Hamas does not and never will recognize Israel. Recognition is an act conferred by states, not movements or governments, and Palestine is not a state. Nevertheless, the [Hamas-led] government’s program calls for the end of the occupation, not the destruction of Israel, and Hamas has proposed ending the occupation and a long-term truce to bring peace to this region.

    That is Hamas’ own position. The government has also recognized President Abbas’ right to conduct political negotiations with Israel. If he were to produce a peace agreement, and if this agreement was endorsed by our national institutions and a popular referendum, then — even if it includes Palestinian recognition of Israel — we would of course accept their verdict. Because respecting the will of the people and their democratic choice is also one of our principles.

    According to Halevy, Hamas had conveyed these ideas to the Israeli leadership as far back as 1997 — but it never got a response. “Israel rejected this approach out of hand,” he wrote, “viewing it as a honey trap that would allow Hamas to consolidate its strength and status until such time as it would be capable of confronting Israel in battle, with a chance of winning.”

    Halevy regarded this as a serious mistake. “Is the current approach of Hamas genuine or is it a honey trap?” he asked. “Who can say?” Everything would depend on the details — but “such details cannot be pursued unless Hamas is engaged in meaningful discussion.”

    Finally — and presciently, it’s now clear — he reminded his readers that refusing to talk brought risks of its own:

    The Hamas leadership is by no means unanimous concerning the policies it should adopt. There are the pragmatists, the die-hard ideologues, the politicians, and the commanders in the field. All are now locked in serious debate over the future.

    As long as the door to dialogue is closed, there is no doubt as to who will prevail in this continuous deliberation and soul-searching.

    Organized Inhumanity

    Instead of taking Halevy’s Realpolitik advice, Israel and the United States doubled down on their monster-slaying crusade. Following Hamas’s election victory, they cut off aid to the Palestinian Authority, boycotted its new government, and tried to foment an anti-Hamas coup in Gaza, using forces loyal to elements of Fatah. The coup backfired, however, and when the dust cleared in early 2007, Fatah’s forces in Gaza had been routed, leaving Hamas in full control of the Strip.

    In response to that fiasco, Israel’s cabinet designated Gaza a “hostile entity” and prescribed an unprecedented tightening of its blockade, a measure officially referred to as the “closure” — an elaborate system of controls over the movement of people and goods into and out of the enclave, made possible by Israel’s continued grip over Gaza’s borders.
    Prime Minister Ismail Haniya, of Hamas (L), and Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, of Fatah, chair the first meeting of the previously attempted Palestinian unity government, on March 18, 2007, in the Gaza Strip.
    (Abid Katib / Getty Images)

    The closure of Gaza was a unique experiment — a pioneering innovation in organized inhumanity. The United Nations (UN) human rights jurist John Dugard has called it “possibly the most rigorous form of international sanctions imposed in modern times.”

    To make it sustainable, the closure was crafted to allow Israel to fine-tune the level of suffering Gazans experienced. The goal, as an adviser to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert put it, was “to put the Palestinians on a diet, but not to make them die of hunger.” Thus, on the one hand, the productive economy was comprehensively wiped out by denying it materials, fuel, and machinery. But on the other hand, Israel would try to estimate how many truckloads of food deliveries per day it would need to approve in order for the minimum caloric requirements of Gaza’s population to be met without producing famine conditions.

    The phrase that Israel’s closure administrators used among themselves to summarize their objective was, “No prosperity, no development, no humanitarian crisis.” By October 7, this policy had been in place for sixteen years, and a majority of Gaza’s population could not remember a time before it.

    Jamie Stern-Weiner has summarized the effects:

    The unemployment rate soared to “probably the highest in the world,” four-fifths of the population were forced to rely on humanitarian assistance, three-quarters became dependent on food aid, more than half faced “acute food insecurity,” one in ten children were stunted by malnutrition, and over 96 percent of potable water became unsafe for human consumption.

    The head of the United Nations (UN) agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, observed in 2008 that “Gaza is on the threshold of becoming the first territory to be intentionally reduced to a state of abject destitution, with the knowledge, acquiescence and — some would say — encouragement of the international community.”

    The UN warned in 2015 that the cumulative impact of this induced “humanitarian implosion” might render Gaza “unlivable” within a half-decade. Israeli military intelligence agreed.

    As time went on, Israel under Netanyahu tried to turn the closure into a tool of coercive statecraft. When Hamas was being cooperative, the restrictions were minutely eased and Gazans’ misery would ever so slightly subside. When Hamas was recalcitrant, Israel would, so to speak, put the Palestinians on a more stringent diet.

    But even in the most convivial moments of the Israel-Hamas relationship, conditions in Gaza were maintained at a level of deprivation that, anywhere else, would be considered catastrophic. In the period just prior to October 7, Gazans had electricity for only half the day. Eighty percent of the population relied on humanitarian relief for basic needs, 40 percent suffered from a “severe” lack of food, and 75 percent of the population lacked access to water fit for human consumption.

    That was the bad news. The good news was that Israel had recently hinted it might permit repairs to Gaza’s water desalination plants — depending on how Hamas behaved.
    Bismarck in Zion

    It would be wrong to compare this situation to old-style, nineteenth-century colonialism. It was much worse than that. It was more like a grotesque parody of colonialism — “no prosperity, no development, no humanitarian crisis” — a cartoonishly malevolent version of the kind of foreign domination against which “wars of national liberation” have been fought by people on every continent and in every era — and by the most gruesome means.

    One can debate this or that aspect of the academic left’s discourse about Israel as a settler-colonial state. But the colonial dynamic that lies at the root of Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians is not a matter of debate; it’s a fact of history, recognized as such not just by campus social-justice activists but by the leading figures of modern Zionism.

    Vladimir Jabotinsky, the erudite and much misunderstood Zionist leader who posthumously became the founding father of the Israeli right (one of his closest aides, Benzion Netanyahu, was the father of the current prime minister) sought to drive home just this point in his famous 1923 essay “The Iron Wall.”

    At the time, many on the Zionist left still clung to the pretense that Zionism posed no threat to the Palestinians. They dissembled in public about the movement’s ultimate aims — the creation of a state “as Jewish as England is English,” in the words of Chaim Weizmann — and, even in private, some of them professed to believe that the Jewish presence in Palestine would bring such wondrous economic blessings that the Palestinians themselves would someday be won over to the Zionist cause.

    This combination of deception and self-deception put the whole Zionist venture at risk, Jabotinsky believed, and in “The Iron Wall” he set out, in exceptionally lucid and unforgiving prose, to strip away the Left’s illusions.

    It’s worth quoting him at length:

    My readers have a general idea of the history of colonization in other countries. I suggest that they consider all the precedents with which they are acquainted, and see whether there is one solitary instance of any colonization being carried on with the consent of the native population. There is no such precedent.

    The native populations, civilized or uncivilized, have always stubbornly resisted the colonists, irrespective of whether they were civilized or savage.

    And it made no difference whatever whether the colonists behaved decently or not. The companions of Cortez and Pizzaro or (as some people will remind us) our own ancestors under Joshua Ben Nun, behaved like brigands; but the Pilgrim Fathers, the first real pioneers of North America, were people of the highest morality, who did not want to do harm to anyone, least of all to the Red Indians, and they honestly believed that there was room enough in the prairies both for the Paleface and the Redskin. Yet the native population fought with the same ferocity against the good colonists as against the bad.

    Every native population, civilized or not, regards its lands as its national home, of which it is the sole master, and it wants to retain that mastery always; it will refuse to admit not only new masters but even new partners or collaborators.

    This is equally true of the Arabs. Our peace-mongers are trying to persuade us that the Arabs are either fools, whom we can deceive by masking our real aims, or that they are corrupt and can be bribed to abandon to us their claim to priority in Palestine, in return for cultural and economic advantages. I repudiate this conception of the Palestinian Arabs. Culturally they are five hundred years behind us, they have neither our endurance nor our determination; but they are just as good psychologists as we are, and their minds have been sharpened like ours by centuries of fine-spun logomachy.

    We may tell them whatever we like about the innocence of our aims, watering them down and sweetening them with honeyed words to make them palatable, but they know what we want, as well as we know what they do not want. They feel at least the same instinctive jealous love of Palestine, as the old Aztecs felt for ancient Mexico, and the Sioux for their rolling Prairies.

    To imagine, as our Arabophiles do, that they will voluntarily consent to the realization of Zionism in return for the moral and material conveniences which the Jewish colonist brings with him, is a childish notion, which has at bottom a kind of contempt for the Arab people; it means that they despise the Arab race, which they regard as a corrupt mob that can be bought and sold, and are willing to give up their fatherland for a good railway system.

    There is no justification for such a belief. It may be that some individual Arabs take bribes. But that does not mean that the Arab people of Palestine as a whole will sell that fervent patriotism that they guard so jealously, and which even the Papuans will never sell. Every native population in the world resists colonists as long as it has the slightest hope of being able to rid itself of the danger of being colonized.

    That is what the Arabs in Palestine are doing, and what they will persist in doing as long as there remains a solitary spark of hope that they will be able to prevent the transformation of “Palestine” into the “Land of Israel.”

    What should the Zionists do, then, according to Jabotinsky? First, and most important, he urged the movement to build up its military strength — the “iron wall” of the essay’s title.

    Second, under the shield of its armed forces, the Zionists should speed ahead with the colonization of Palestine, against the will of the indigenous Arab majority, by securing a maximum of Jewish immigration in a minimum span of time.

    Once a Jewish majority had become a fait accompli (in 1923, Jews still made up only about 11 percent of Palestine’s population), it would only be a matter of time, Jabotinsky thought, before it finally penetrated the minds of the Arabs that the Jews were not going to be chased out of Palestine. Then they would see that they had no better option than to come to terms with Zionism.

    And at that point, Jabotinsky concluded, “I am convinced that we Jews will be found ready to give them satisfactory guarantees” — guarantees of extensive civil, political, even national rights, within a Jewish state — “so that both peoples can live together in peace, like good neighbors.”

    Whatever one thinks of the morality — or the sincerity — of Jabotinsky’s strategy in “The Iron Wall,” as Realpolitik it made eminent sense. It started from a realistic appraisal of the problem: that the Palestinians could not be expected to give up the fight to preserve their homeland. It proposed a program of focused coercive violence to frustrate their resistance. And it held out a set of assurances safeguarding key Palestinian interests in the context of an overall settlement in which the main Zionist objective would be achieved.

    Whether this Bismarckian program could have “worked” (from the Zionist perspective) will never be known, however. For in the years that followed, a very different sort of scenario gained prominence in the thinking of the Zionist leadership.

    This was what was known as “transfer”: a euphemism meaning the “voluntary” or involuntary physical removal of the Palestinian population from the “Land of Israel.”

    In 1923, when he wrote “The Iron Wall,” Jabotinsky was firmly opposed to transfer. “I consider it utterly impossible to eject the Arabs from Palestine,” he wrote. “There will always be two nations in Palestine.” He maintained this stance quite adamantly until the final years of his life, holding firm even as support for the concept steadily spread through both the mainstream Zionist left and among his own increasingly radicalized right-wing followers.

    The Israeli historian Benny Morris chronicled this doctrinal shift in his The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem. He summarized it this way:

    As Arab opposition, including violent resistance, to Zionism grew in the 1920s and 1930s, and as this opposition resulted in periodic British clampdowns on Jewish immigration, a consensus or near-consensus formed among the Zionist leaders around the idea of transfer as the natural, efficient and even moral solution to the demographic dilemma.

    Thus, by 1948, Morris concluded, “transfer was in the air.”
    We Will Attack and Smite the Enemy

    In the early morning hours of Friday, April 9, 1948, during the conflict that Israelis call the War of Independence, 132 armed men — mostly from the Irgun, the right-wing paramilitary group that Jabotinsky had led until his death in 1940, but also a few others from a splinter-group offshoot called Lehi — entered a Palestinian village near Jerusalem with the intention of capturing it and requisitioning supplies from its inhabitants.

    Six months earlier, the UN had announced its decision to partition Palestine into a Jewish state, which was to be allocated 55 percent of the territory, and a Palestinian Arab state, on the remaining 45 percent. (At the time, there were about 600,000 Jews and 1.3 million Arabs in Palestine.)

    The Zionists were delighted to gain such a prize, while the Palestinians — in shock at the prospect of having more than half their homeland torn away from them — rejected the plan in its totality. In response to the announcement, a wave of civil strife between Jews and Arabs erupted, shortly escalating into all-out war.

    Amid this violence, the village in question, Deir Yassin, had been faithfully respecting a truce with nearby Jewish settlements. “There was not even one incident between Deir Yassin and the Jews,” according to the local commander of the Haganah, the mainstream Zionist militia that would soon become the core of the newly created Israel Defense Forces (IDF).

    Despite this, the rightist paramilitaries had made a decision to carry out the “liquidation of all the men in the village and any other force that opposed us, whether it be old people, women, or children,” according to an Irgun officer, Ben-Zion Cohen, who participated in the operation’s planning. The stated reason for this decision was that it would “show the Arabs what happens” when Jews were united and determined to fight.

    (Cohen’s recollections of the operation, as well as those of several other Deir Yassin veterans, were recorded and deposited with the Jabotinsky Institute archives in Tel Aviv in the mid-1950s, where they were discovered decades later by an Israeli journalist.)

    That morning, the inhabitants of Deir Yassin awoke to the sound of grenades and gunfire. Some began fleeing in their nightclothes; others scrambled for their weapons or took refuge in the homes of neighbors. The attackers’ initial battle plan quickly fell apart amid equipment failures and communication problems, and they took unexpectedly heavy casualties from the local men armed with rifles. After a few hours of fighting, a decision was made to call a retreat.

    Cowering inside their homes at that moment were the Palestinian families who’d been unable to flee in time. As soon as the paramilitary commanders ordered the retreat, these villagers became the targets of the Jewish fighters’ frustrations.

    What happened next was recounted by survivors to British police investigators from the Palestine Mandate’s civil administration. Twenty years later, the records of the investigation were obtained by two journalists, Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre, for their bestselling 1972 book, O Jerusalem!

    The survivors described scenes like the following.

    Fahimi Zeidan, a twelve-year-old girl, recalled the door to her house being blasted open as she and her family hid along with members of a neighboring family. The paramilitaries took them outside. “The Jews ordered all our family to line up against the wall and they started shooting us.” After they shot an already wounded man, “one of his daughters screamed, they shot her too. They then called my brother Mahmoud and shot him in our presence, and when my mother screamed and bent over my brother (she was carrying my little sister Khadra who was still being breastfed) they shot my mother too.”

    Haleem Eid, a thirty-year-old woman, testified that she saw “a man shoot a bullet into the neck of my sister Salhiyeh who was nine months pregnant. Then he cut her stomach open with a butcher’s knife.” When another village woman, Aiesch Radwas, tried to extricate the fetus from the dead mother’s womb, she was shot, too.

    Zeinab Akkel recalled that she tried to save her younger brother’s life by offering the Jewish attackers all her money (about $400). One of them took the money and “then he just knocked my brother over and shot him in the head with five bullets.”

    Sixteen-year-old Naaneh Khalil said she saw a man take “a kind of sword and slash my neighbor Jamil Hish from head to toe then do the same thing on the steps to my house to my cousin Fathi.”

    Meir Pa’il, a Jewish Agency intelligence official who was on the scene, later described the sight of Irgun and Lehi fighters running frantically through the village, “their eyes glazed over, full of lust for murder.”

    When some Irgunists discovered a house that had earlier been the source of fatal gunfire for one of their fallen comrades, they assaulted it, and nine civilians emerged in surrender. One of the paramilitaries shouted: “This is for Yiftach!” and machine-gunned them all to death.

    Prisoners were loaded onto trucks and driven through the streets of Jerusalem in a “victory parade.” After a group of male villagers was paraded in this way, they were unloaded from the trucks and executed. Meir Pa’il recalled photographing roughly twenty-five men shot in firing squad formation.

    According to Haganah intelligence documents, some of the villagers were taken to a nearby paramilitary base, where Lehi fighters killed one of the babies and then, when its mother fainted in shock, finished off the mother as well.

    One of the British officers from the Criminal Investigation Division attached the following note to the investigation file:

    I interviewed many of the women folk in order to glean some information on any atrocities committed in Deir Yassin but the majority of those women are very shy and reluctant to relate their experiences especially in matters concerning sexual assault and they need great coaxing before they will divulge any information. The recording of statements is hampered also by the hysterical state of the women who often break down many times whilst the statement is being recorded.

    There is, however, no doubt that many sexual atrocities were committed by the attacking Jews. Many young school girls were raped and later slaughtered. Old women were also molested. One story is current concerning a case in which a young girl was literally torn in two. Many infants were also butchered and killed. I also saw one old woman who gave her age as one hundred and four who had been severely beaten about the head by rifle butts. Women had bracelets torn from their arms and rings from their fingers and parts of some of the women’s ears were severed in order to remove earrings.”

    The next day, when Haganah forces inspected the village, one of them was shocked to find Jewish guerrillas “eating with gusto next to the bodies.” A doctor who accompanied the detachment noted that “it was clear that the attackers had gone from house to house and shot the people at close range,” adding: “I had been a doctor in the German Army for five years in World War I, but I never saw such a horrifying spectacle.”

    The commander of the Jewish youth brigade sent to assist in the cleanup operation entered a number of the houses and reported finding several bodies “sexually mutilated.” A female brigade member went into shock upon discovering the corpse of a pregnant woman whose abdomen appeared to have been crushed.

    The cleanup crew burned and buried the bodies in a quarry, later filling it with dirt.

    As they did so, a radio broadcast could be heard in Jerusalem delivering the following message:

    Accept my congratulations on this splendid act of conquest.

    Convey my regards to all the commanders and soldiers. We shake your hands.

    We are all proud of the excellent leadership and the fighting spirit in this great attack.

    We stand to attention in memory of the slain.

    We lovingly shake the hands of the wounded.

    Tell the soldiers: you have made history in Israel with your attack and your conquest. Continue thus until victory.

    As in Deir Yassin, so everywhere, we will attack and smite the enemy. God, God, Thou hast chosen us for conquest.

    The voice delivering the message belonged to the Irgun’s chief commander — the future Nobel Peace Prize winner and prime minister of Israel, Menachem Begin.
    Saying No to Yes

    “More than any single occurrence in my memory of that difficult period, it was Deir Yassin that stood out in all its awful and intentional fearsomeness,” the late Palestinian American literary scholar Edward Said, who was twelve at the time and living in Cairo, later recalled — “the stories of rape, of children with their throats slit, mothers disemboweled, and the like. They gripped the imagination, as they were designed to do, and they impressed a young boy many miles away with the mystery of such bloodthirsty and seemingly gratuitous violence against Palestinians whose only crime seemed to be that they were there.”

    A different memory of Deir Yassin was conveyed by Yaacov Meridor, a former Irgun commander, during a 1949 debate in the Israeli Knesset: to a disapproving mention of the massacre by a left-wing deputy, he retorted: “Thanks to Deir Yassin we won the war, sir!”

    Because of the wide publicity it received, Deir Yassin contributed disproportionately to the terrified panic that spurred the Palestinians’ flight in 1948–49. But it was only one of several dozen massacres perpetrated by Jewish forces, most of which had been the work of the mainstream Haganah/IDF. In a few cases, the IDF appears to have matched or even exceeded the depravity of the Irgun in Deir Yassin (as, for example, at al-Dawayima in October 1948).
    Palestinian refugees fleeing in October–November 1948. (Wikimedia Commons)

    The radicalized heirs of Jabotinsky delighted in reminding the Left of these details. “How many Deir Yassins have you [the Left] been responsible for?” another rightist deputy interjected. “If you don’t know, you can ask the Minister of Defense.” (The minister of defense was David Ben-Gurion, who’d been kept abreast of the atrocities perpetrated by his troops during the war.)

    The result was that, by mid-1949, the majority of the Palestinian population had fled for their lives or been expelled from their homes by Jewish forces and were living now as refugees beyond the borders of Palestine. Their abandoned villages would be bulldozed, and they would never be allowed to return. Israel, meanwhile, had expanded its control in Palestine from the 55 percent of the land awarded to it in 1947 by the UN to the 78 percent of the 1949 armistice lines.

    Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, the Arab states and Palestinian organizations were unanimous in declaring Israel an illegitimate “Zionist entity” that would be dismantled and destroyed when Palestine was finally liberated. Until then, Arab governments were to have no contacts with Israel of any kind — even purely economic — on penalty of ostracism from the rest of the Arab world. This stance was affirmed and reaffirmed, year after year, in speeches, diplomatic texts, and Arab League communiqués.

    But Israel spent these years patiently tending to its iron wall, so that by 1967, when a second general Arab-Israeli war arrived, the wall was so impregnable that Israel was able to defeat the combined forces of all its adversaries in less than a week, conquering vast expanses of Egyptian, Jordanian, and Syrian territory.

    From that moment on, the rules of the conflict changed. There was only one feasible way for the Arab states to regain their conquered territories, and that was by coming to terms with the conqueror. Moshe Dayan, Israel’s defense minister, captured the essence of the situation in a laconic remark made three days after the war’s end. “We are quite pleased with what we have now. If the Arabs desire any change, they should call us.”

    With the brute physics of military compulsion now forcing the Arabs to rethink their long-held attitude toward the Jewish state, Israel had a unique opportunity to finally pursue the Bismarckian type of settlement that Jabotinsky had advocated fifty years earlier (albeit in a very different context).

    But for reasons originating in both the traumas of Jewish history and the political circumstances of the post-1967 world, Israel was unable to do it. Since the war, its political culture — on the Left and the Right, among the secular as well as the religious — had become suffused with a messianic belief in the imperative of Jewish territorial expansion and the illegitimacy of territorial compromise. Israelis clung to a concept of “absolute security” (in Kissinger’s sense) that over the years would drive them into a series of military disasters, most notably the 1982 “incursion” into Lebanon, which was supposed to last a few weeks but ended up dragging on for almost two decades. And a grossly distorted mental image of Israel’s Arab neighbors was cultivated in the nation’s collective psyche, based on the self-fulfilling prophecy of eternal enmity driven by a timeless hatred of Jews.

    The mentality was acutely captured by Joshua Cohen in his 2021 novel, The Netanyahus, a fictionalized account of a 1960 sojourn by Benzion Netanyahu and his young family (including a teenage Binyamin) to a bucolic American college town for a faculty job interview.

    At one point in the book, a fellow Israeli academic assesses the work of Netanyahu père, who was a scholar of medieval Jewish history:

    [There] comes a point in nearly every text he produces where it emerges that the true phenomenon under discussion is not anti-Semitism in Early Medieval Lorraine or Late Medieval Iberia but rather anti-Semitism in twentieth-century Nazi Germany; and suddenly a description of how a specific tragedy affected a specific diaspora becomes a diatribe about the general tragedy of the Jewish Diaspora, and how that Diaspora must end — as if history should not describe, but prescribe — in the founding of the State of Israel.

    I am not certain whether this politicization of Jewish suffering would have the same impact on American academia as it had on ours, but, in any milieu, connecting Crusader-era pogroms with the Iberian Inquisitions with the Nazi Reich must be adjudged as exceeding the bounds of sloppy analogy, to assert a cyclicity of Jewish history that approaches dangerously close to the mystical.

    The paradoxical result of all this was that the more powerful Israel became, the more power it felt it needed, and the more concessions it extracted from its enemies, the more concessions it required. Jabotinsky had advised the Zionist movement to build up its military strength in order to frustrate its adversaries’ attacks — and Israel became quite adept at this. But absent external duress, it could never bring itself to clinch the culminating step of Jabotinsky’s Bismarckian program: the ultimate accommodation with the defeated enemy.

    Put another way, Israel couldn’t take yes for an answer.

    In February 1971, Anwar Sadat, the new president of Egypt, the largest and most powerful Arab state, became the first Arab leader to declare his willingness to sign a peace treaty with Israel. He would do so, he said, if Israel committed to withdraw from Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula and agree to a negotiated resolution of the Palestinian issue.

    Eventually, Sadat’s persistence in seeking an agreement with Israel paid off: through the good offices of Jimmy Carter, an Egyptian-Israeli agreement on the terms of a peace treaty was signed at Camp David in 1978 — for which Sadat shared the 1978 Nobel Peace Prize — and Israel handed back Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula in stages, ending in 1982.

    But it would take eight years, a region-wide war, a US-Soviet standoff that brought the world close to nuclear Armageddon, and a spectacular diplomatic gesture on Sadat’s part — his astonishing 1977 visit to Jerusalem, which led directly to his assassination by Islamic extremists four years later — to overcome Israeli obstructionism and make an Egyptian-Israeli agreement a reality.

    For two years following his February 1971 initiative, Sadat fruitlessly tried to advance his peace proposal in the face of Israel’s contemptuous rejection. (In those days, the Israeli sociologist Uri Ben-Eliezer writes, Sadat was still “depicted in Israel as an ignorant Egyptian peasant and a target for mockery.”) By spring 1973, he’d decided that his diplomatic avenues were exhausted, and he resolved to go to war to recover Egypt’s lost territory.

    Sadat knew that Egypt couldn’t reconquer the territories in battle. His plan, in essence, was a barroom brawler’s stratagem: he would start a fight with his stronger opponent, quickly get in a few good blows, and then count on onlookers — in this case the United States and the Soviet Union — to step in and break up the scuffle before too much damage could be done. By creating a Cold War crisis, he intended to force the United States, the only power with any leverage over Israel, to drag the Israelis to the negotiating table.

    His brilliantly executed surprise attack of October 6, 1973, secretly coordinated with Syria, served its purpose. It caught Israel unaware and unprepared, triggering a national crisis of confidence whose reverberations would be felt throughout Israeli society for years to come. It led to a US-Soviet confrontation that came close to the point of nuclear escalation. And it forced the United States to begin the process of nudging Israel in the direction of a settlement.

    Looking back on this sequence of events in his memoirs decades later, the Israeli elder statesman Shimon Peres, not wanting to cast judgment on the decisions of his former colleagues (he’d been a junior minister in government in 1971–73), wrote cautiously about Sadat’s rejected prewar peace terms: “It is hard to judge today whether peace with Sadat might have been possible at that time on the terms that were eventually agreed to five years later.”

    But other officials from that era have been less reserved. “I truly believe that it was a historic mistake” to have spurned Sadat’s 1971 overture, wrote Eytan Bentsur, a top aide to then foreign minister Abba Eban, in a judgment now echoed by many Israeli and American analysts. “History will judge if an opportunity had not been missed — one which would have prevented the Yom Kippur War and foreshadowed the peace with Egypt” at Camp David.
    “Do Not Be Fooled by Wily Sadat”

    If Sadat’s 1971 proposal was killed by negatives quietly conveyed via confidential diplomatic channels, it also fell victim, in the public sphere, to a deeply entrenched mental tic in Western discourse on the Middle East: the reflex of construing any given Arab peace proposal as a trick secretly designed to achieve not peace but the destruction of Israel.

    How a peace initiative can even be a trick, and what anyone could hope to gain by announcing a “trick peace proposal,” are questions that lack obvious answers. But to this day, the legend of the “fake Arab peace initiative” continues to exert a powerful psychological hold over many Western and Israeli observers.

    For example, shortly after Sadat publicized his 1971 peace offer, the diplomatic historian A. J. P. Taylor — the most famous British historian of his time — warned in a newspaper commentary that the Egyptian leader was attempting an elaborate ruse. “Do not be fooled by wily Sadat,” Taylor cautioned. The telltale clue that exposed Sadat’s real intentions, according to the scholar, was his insistence on the return of all occupied Egyptian territory, including the strategically important city of Sharm e-Shaikh.

    Taylor was certain that Sharm el-Shaikh was “a place of no use or importance to Egypt” aside from its dominating position at the mouth of the Gulf of Aqaba. If Sadat wanted it back so badly, that could only mean one thing: he wasn’t really seeking peace; he “merely wants to be in a position to strangle Israel again.”

    Obviously, history has not been kind to that conjecture. Fifty-two years later, Sharm el-Shaikh is an upscale resort town, the jewel of Egypt’s tourism industry. An Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty has been in force for more than four decades and has never been breached, by either side. Israel, needless to say, remains unstrangled.

    The mentality of Israel’s Western publicists grew more and more detached from reality in this way, with world events interpreted through the increasingly distorted lens of Zionist demonology. A 1973 editorial in what was then the largest-circulation Jewish newspaper in the United States, New York Jewish Week, is illustrative. At that moment, a UN Middle East peace conference was getting underway in Geneva, and there had recently been a spate of press commentary cautiously suggesting that perhaps Sadat might really want peace with Israel after all.

    The editorialists of Jewish Week had a question for such naïfs: Had they learned nothing from Hitler?

    The Arab leaders have told us that their aims are quite limited. They say they merely want to regain the territories that Israel conquered in 1967. Then they will be satisfied and recognize Israel, to live in peace forever after.

    Had Chamberlain and Daladier read “Mein Kampf” and heeded its warnings, they would have known that Hitler was dissembling [about] his real aims.

    Were the gullible editors and statesmen who believe the Arab protestations of limited war objectives to read the unrepudiated war aims of the Arab leaders who now profess moderation, they would know that the Yom Kippur War and the subsequent Arab peace offensive were right out of the Munich betrayal.

    With the benefit of hindsight and the enormous condescension of posterity, it’s all too easy to laugh at this kind of hysteria. Surely, after fifty years, the jury is in, and we can now say with certainty that no Middle Eastern Czechoslovakia has fallen victim to the battalions of the Egyptian Wehrmacht.

    But exactly the same reasoning and rhetoric are routinely deployed today, only now with Hamas replacing Anwar Sadat’s Egypt as the epicenter of the looming Fourth Reich — a dream-logic montage of history in which an interchangeable chorus of Hitlerian Arabs “professes moderation” at an uncannily Munich-like Geneva (or is it a Geneva-like Oslo?) in order to dupe gullible Westerners about their genocidal intentions.

    In fairness to the editorialists of Jewish Week, it should be recalled that Sadat — whose saintly memory as a peacemaker is venerated today by everyone in official Washington, from earnest White House speechwriters to flag-pinned congressional yahoos — routinely indulged in antisemitic invective of a virulence that would never be heard from the top leaders of Hamas today.

    In a 1972 speech, he called the Jews “a nation of liars and traitors, contrivers of plots, a people born for deeds of treachery” and said that “the most splendid thing that the Prophet Mohammad did was to drive them out of the whole of the Arabian peninsula.” For good measure, he promised that he would “never conduct direct negotiations” with the Jews. (As seen, he soon did just that.)

    Nor did Sadat hesitate to verbally evoke the “destruction of Israel” when it suited him; he did so routinely, including in a speech to his ruling Arab Socialist Union party just four months after his February 1971 peace initiative. In that June address, he spoke of his eagerness for the coming battle to destroy the “Zionist intrusion.”

    There were two contrasting ways of interpreting this sort of rhetoric from Sadat. On the one hand, there was the approach taken by the editorialists of the English-language Jerusalem Post — a publication deeply in thrall to the legend of the Arab peace fake-out — who gleefully declared that Sadat’s speech had “pulled off the mask of the peace-seeker, to show the true face of the warmonger.” His peace initiative of four months earlier had thereby been exposed as “a calculated fraud.”

    But how did the editorialists know it was the February peace proposal that was the fraud and not the June war threat? And if the peace proposal was a “calculated fraud,” why would Sadat expose his own calculated fraud? The Arab-peace-fake-out theory has always had this tendency to run itself into a logical ditch.

    An alternative interpretation could be found in a rival Israeli newspaper, Al HaMishmar, the organ of the small, far-left Mapam party, which proposed a much more believable explanation for Sadat’s bellicose rhetoric. The paper simply pointed out that his oration had been an election speech, delivered at a party conference. Most likely, the paper suggested — in the skeptical spirit of clear-eyed Realpolitik — it had just been a bit of electioneering.

    Al HaMishmar was right, of course, and the Jerusalem Post was wrong. Sadat’s peace proposal was not a fraud, and the theory of the Sadat peace fake-out had no truth to it.

    But more importantly, it was the opposite of the truth.

    Recall that Sadat’s position was that he was willing to make peace with Israel, but only on the condition that Israel withdraw from the occupied territories and accept a just solution to the Palestinian question. To Arab audiences, he promised again and again that he would always insist on both — that he would never stoop to anything so dishonorable, so treacherous, as making a separate peace with Israel that failed to address the plight of the suffering Palestinians.

    However, in the end, that’s exactly what he did. At Camp David in 1978, when he found himself unable to extract any substantive concessions from Israel on the Palestine file, he yielded to the superior force of Israel’s iron wall and signed an agreement that restored Egypt’s lost territory while offering little more than a fig-leaf gesture toward the Palestinians. (The agreement pledged that Egypt and Israel would continue negotiations on Palestinian “autonomy” under Israeli sovereignty; the brief trickle of pro forma negotiations that followed quickly petered out, as expected.)
    President Jimmy Carter shaking hands with Anwar Sadat and Menachem Begin at the signing of the Egyptian-Israeli Peace Treaty at the White House, 1979. (Wikimedia Commons)

    The defection of Egypt, the strongest Arab state, from the Arab coalition was a historic disaster for the Palestinian movement, from which it arguably never recovered.

    Which means that if Sadat had, in fact, been harboring any dark thoughts in the back of his mind when he put forward his 1971 peace proposal, what they amounted to was not a secret plan to bring about the destruction of the Jewish state, as erroneously proclaimed by Taylor and the American Jewish press and a cavalcade of witting and unwitting propagandists from the pages of Reader’s Digest to the platforms of Meet the Press.

    What Sadat was actually concealing was his shamefaced readiness to countenance the defeat of the Palestinian cause — which is how it came to be that Menachem Begin, thirty years after proclaiming, “As in Deir Yassin, so everywhere, we will attack and smite the enemy,” and Sadat, seven years after declaring that he would “never conduct direct negotiations” with Israel but would strive to bring about its “complete destruction,” could stand together on the White House lawn and warmly shake hands while a beaming Jimmy Carter looked on.

    That was Realpolitik in action.
    “The Language of Lies and Treason”

    At that moment, the man who would become the moving spirit behind the creation of Hamas — a forty-three-year-old quadriplegic Gazan named Ahmed Yassin — was on the cusp of an astonishing political ascendancy.

    At the time of the Camp David Accords, politics in Israeli-occupied Gaza revolved around two poles. On the Left, there was a constellation of forces grouped around the physician Haidar Abdel-Shafi, a former communist, and his local branch of the Palestinian Red Crescent Society. These included the feminist and labor leader Yusra al-Barbari of the General Union of Palestinian Women; Fayez Abu Rahmeh of the Gaza Bar Association, which aided Gazan political prisoners; and Mousa Saba, the head of the Gaza chapter of the YMCA (Young Men’s Christian Association), which hosted summer camps and discussion seminars for Palestinians of all faiths. Abdel-Shafi, who’d been a founding member of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in the 1960s, was an early proponent of a two-state settlement in which an independent Palestinian state would coexist alongside Israel.

    The other pole centered on the Gaza branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, which had been founded in 1946. Yassin, a pious schoolteacher with a thin voice who’d been paralyzed in a sports accident as a child, joined the Brotherhood early on and in the 1960s began attracting a devoted local following for his charismatic lay preaching.

    At the end of the 1960s, the local Brotherhood was at a low ebb, its membership no more than a few dozen. But over the course of the 1970s, Yassin and his band of followers would embark on an energetic organizing campaign whose institutional expression was what they called the “Mujama al-Islamiya” (the Islamic “Center,” or “Collective”), a network of religious schools, community centers, children’s nurseries, and the like.

    Throughout this process of institution-building, Yassin and his followers rigorously kept their distance from anti-Israel violence — or indeed nationalist agitation of any kind. Jean-Pierre Filiu, a French Arabist scholar and author of a magisterial history of Gaza, writes that Yassin “adhered to the Brotherhood’s moralizing line that prioritized spiritual revival over active militancy.” In Yassin’s view, “the Palestinians had lost Palestine because they were not sufficiently Muslim — it was only by returning to the sources of their faith and to their daily duties as Muslims that they would ultimately be able to recover their land and their rights.”

    In a significant political gesture, the Israeli military governor in Gaza attended the 1973 inauguration ceremony of the Jura al-Shams mosque, the central hub and showpiece of the Mujama. As late as 1986, an Israeli governor of Gaza, General Yitzhak Segev, could explain that Israel was giving “financial aid to Islamic groups via mosques and religious schools in order to help create a force that would stand against the leftist forces which support the PLO.”

    Occasionally, these connections attracted accusations from PLO partisans that Yassin and his men were puppets or stooges of the Israelis. But the Islamists’ tacit nonaggression pact with the occupier was not the product of manipulation; it reflected a coincidence of interests — an expression of Realpolitik on both sides.

    What really drove Yassin and his followers, above all else, was their vision of “Islamization from below”: the creation of a society in which every individual could choose to be a good Muslim and be surrounded by institutions that would nurture that choice. That was the essence of the Muslim Brotherhood’s ideology everywhere, and like the US religious right, its exponents were highly adaptable when it came to the means by which to advance it. American fundamentalists might alternately burn Beatles records or sponsor Christian rock festivals, build suburban megachurches or preach with long hair in hippie conventicles. The Islamists of Gaza would approach their mission with a similar flexibility.

    In the 1970s and 1980s, the ethos of the Mujama was defined by a vehement rejection of all politics (“the language of lies and treason,” they liked to say) in favor of priorities like family, education, and a return to traditional mores. Hence the Islamists’ adamancy about abstaining from the national struggle — a choice that had the added benefit of shielding their project from harassment by the Israeli military authorities.

    The men of the Mujama were not above using violence against other Palestinians in pursuit of their objectives: in a moment of hubris amid the wave of Arab revulsion at Sadat’s peace treaty, Yassin’s forces tried to take on the local left — “the communists,” “the atheists,” as they contemptuously called all their left-wing rivals — by running a candidate against Abdel-Shafi in elections to the presidency of the Red Crescent Society.

    When the Islamist candidate lost in a landslide, “several hundred Islamist demonstrators expressed their anger on 7 January 1980 by ransacking the Red Crescent offices, before moving on to cafés, cinemas, and drinking establishments in the town center,” Filiu reports. (The Israeli army conspicuously refrained from intervening.) In the 1980s, Gaza would be the scene of a vicious and at times violent campaign by the Islamists to impose “modest” dress on women.

    It was only after the outbreak of the First Intifada at the very end of 1987 — a spontaneous and massive popular uprising over which PLO cadres quickly assumed leadership — that Yassin overruled his divided advisers and made a strategic decision to join the struggle against Israel.

    Amid the explosion of mass strikes and boycotts, stone-throwing demonstrations and confrontations with Israeli soldiers, the men of the Mujama saw which way the wind was blowing. They had a product to sell, and it was obvious what their target market wanted. In contradiction to everything they had preached over the previous decade, they began issuing anonymous leaflets calling on the faithful to resist the occupation. Soon they started signing the leaflets “the Islamic Resistance Movement,” whose Arabic initials spell “Hamas.”

    Almost overnight, the notorious quietists of Gaza’s religious right, once ridiculed and condemned by Palestinian nationalists for sitting out the anti-Israel struggle, transformed themselves into armed guerrillas.

    By the time of the 1993 Oslo Accords, they had become the unlikely standard-bearers of uncompromising Palestinian nationalism.
    Arafat Says Uncle

    If the Oslo Accords signing ceremony in 1993 looked like a restaging of the earlier handshake on the White House lawn — a new production of an old play, with Yasser Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin in the Sadat and Begin roles, and Bill Clinton typecast as the new Jimmy Carter — that was not the only resemblance between Camp David and Oslo.

    Both agreements were by-products of Israel’s congenital inability to take yes for an answer.

    If the “yes” in Egypt’s case came in 1971, when Sadat first signaled his willingness to recognize Israel, the “yes” of Yasser Arafat’s PLO was first delivered in December 1973, just before the Geneva peace conference, when Arafat sent a secret message to Washington:

    The Palestine Liberation Organization in no way seeks the destruction of Israel, but accepts its existence as a sovereign state; the PLO’s main aim at the Geneva conference will be the creation of a Palestinian state out of the “Palestinian part of Jordan” [i.e., the West Bank and East Jerusalem] plus Gaza.

    But Arafat’s private declaration brought no change in the PLO’s formal, public position: officially, the group remained committed, in the words of the 1968 PLO charter, to “the elimination of Zionism in Palestine.”

    The reason for this discrepancy stemmed from the fact that “recognizing Israel” meant something very different for the Palestinians than it had for Egypt.

    Sadat’s peace initiative had proposed trading recognition of Israel for a full restoration of Egypt’s territorial integrity. For the Palestinians, by contrast, recognition of Israel was tantamount in and of itself to a signing away of their right to 78 percent of their homeland’s territory. What for Egypt had been merely a humbling political concession to a regional military rival was, for the Palestinians, an existential act of renunciation.

    Arafat believed the Palestinian masses would nevertheless support such a sacrifice — but only as part of a historic compromise in which recognition of the loss of 78 percent of Palestine would be compensated by assurances that the remaining 22 percent would become a Palestine state.

    He therefore adopted what might be called his “American strategy.” For the next fifteen years, Arafat chased the prize of a dialogue with the United States, hoping to strike a deal: in exchange for a formal, public PLO commitment to recognize Israel, Washington would publicly commit to work for Palestinian statehood and apply the necessary pressure on Israel.

    The PLO leader pitched this concept to any American who would listen. In a 1976 conversation with a visiting US senator in Beirut, Arafat “said that before he was able to acknowledge Israel’s right to exist as an independent state he must have something to show his people,” a US embassy dispatch reported to State Department headquarters in Washington. “This something could be Israeli withdrawal of a ‘few kilometers’ in the Gaza Strip and on the West Bank,” with a UN force taking control of the evacuated territory.

    Israel acted quickly to foil Arafat’s strategy. In 1975, it extracted from Secretary of State Henry Kissinger a signed memorandum of agreement in which Kissinger pledged that the United States would not “negotiate with the Palestine Liberation Organization so long as the Palestine Liberation Organization does not recognize Israel’s right to exist.” By making PLO recognition of Israel a precondition for dialogue with the United States, the agreement ruled out any scenario in which recognition might be granted in exchange for US commitments.

    Kissinger had no qualms about signing away his ability to talk to the PLO. He was convinced that nothing could come of such talks — not because the Palestinians were rejectionists, but because the Israelis were. “Once [the PLO] are in the peace process,” he told a meeting of US Middle East ambassadors in June 1976, “they’ll raise all the issues the Israelis can’t handle” — the issues of the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem.

    According to Kissinger, anyone foolish enough to think a US administration could use its leverage to force Israel to concede on those issues “totally underestimates what it involves in taking on the [Israel] lobby. They never hit you on the issue; you have to fight ten other issues — your credibility, everything.” In short, “We cannot deliver the minimum demands of the PLO, so why talk to them?”

    As soon as Kissinger’s memorandum was signed, Israel’s fixers and propagandists went to work transforming it from a mere understanding between foreign ministers into a sacrosanct totem of domestic politics, to which every ambitious US politician had to genuflect. In the 1980 presidential election, all four major candidates — Ted Kennedy, Jimmy Carter, John Anderson, and Ronald Reagan — tried to outdo one another in anathematizing the PLO and promising not to talk to it.

    This time the ideological Wurlitzer had to be cranked up to eleven: it wasn’t enough to portray the PLO as a group that currently rejected Israel’s existence (which, if anything, might serve as an argument in favor of US contacts with the group — to try to persuade it to change its stance).

    Rather, the PLO had to be depicted as incapable of accepting Israel’s existence, or coexisting with Jews at all. In the popular phrase of the time, endlessly repeated or paraphrased by ostensibly factual news organizations like the Associated Press and the New York Times, the PLO was an organization “sworn to Israel’s destruction.” Or, as Exodus author Leon Uris — the Homer of American Zionism, its bard and ur-mythologist — put it in a 1976 open letter: the PLO was “emotionally and constitutionally bound to the liquidation of Jewish existence in the Middle East.”

    Top US officials were forced to ritually repeat this fiction — that the PLO was bent on Israel’s destruction — even though they knew firsthand that it wasn’t true. “We have to consider what the parties’ position is,” Jimmy Carter’s secretary of state, Edmund Muskie, said in June 1980, defending the United States’ increasingly isolated stance opposing PLO involvement in peace talks, “and the PLO’s position is that it is not interested in a negotiated settlement with Israel. It is interested only in Israel’s extinction.”

    Meanwhile, privately, the CIA was telling the State Department that, far from refusing to recognize Israel, the PLO was internally debating what to demand in exchange for recognition: “Despite efforts by Fatah moderates [such as Arafat] to convince the rest of the [PLO] leadership that a dialogue with the US entails sufficient long range benefits to justify [recognizing Israel], the PLO leadership remains largely convinced that it must demand more than just talks with the US before giving up what it considers to be its only major ‘card’ in the negotiating process.”
    Prime Minister Ehud Barak of Israel and Chairman Yasser Arafat of the Palestinian Authority shake hands at a trilateral meeting at the US ambassador’s residence in Oslo, Norway, November 1999. (Wikimedia Commons)

    Like A. J. P. Taylor’s musings about Anwar Sadat, the assessments of the PLO that prevailed in that era have aged poorly. Far from proving “emotionally and constitutionally bound to the liquidation of Jewish existence in the Middle East,” the PLO today not only recognizes Israel, it has a leader, Mahmoud Abbas, whose policy of “security coordination” with the occupation authorities is considered so indispensable to the Israeli army that the country’s lobbyists and diplomats have to periodically remind confused right-wing Republicans that they actually want the United States to keep funding the Palestinian security forces.

    Abbas, whose endless concessions to Israel have consigned him to political irrelevance among his own people, has spent the past decade begging for a NATO occupation of the West Bank — an odd way to go about pursuing the “liquidation of Jewish existence in the Middle East.”

    Finally, in 1988, Arafat caved. In exile in Tunisia following the PLO’s bloody expulsion from Lebanon, he pushed the Palestinian National Council (PNC) for a unilateral recognition of Israel with no assurance that any movement toward a Palestinian state would be forthcoming. In his memoirs, then Secretary of State George Shultz gleefully summed up the episode this way: “Arafat finally said ‘Uncle.’”

    Israel had at last received its “yes” from the Palestinians, signed, witnessed, and notarized. But it had no effect whatsoever on either the United States or the Israeli attitude toward Palestinian statehood.

    More than thirty years later, the Palestinian decision of 1988 — which called for peace between an Israel on 78 percent of the land and a Palestinian state on 22 percent — remains an offer on the table, one that no Israeli government has ever expressed a willingness to touch.

    Had Arafat stopped there, the Palestinians, in diplomatic terms, would have been positioned as advantageously as could be expected given the circumstances.

    Instead, he made a tragic, historic error. He went further than “yes.”

    In 1992, fearful of being sidelined from the post–Gulf War flurry of Middle East diplomacy, Arafat secretly authorized back-channel talks in Oslo with representatives of the newly elected Israeli government of Yitzhak Rabin, in the course of which he agreed to concessions that, once made public, were met with outrage and disbelief by the most alert Palestinian observers.

    In the Oslo Accords, Arafat not only reaffirmed the PLO’s recognition of Israel without any reciprocal Israeli recognition of Palestinian statehood — or even any mention of the possibility of statehood — he conceded to Israel a veto over Palestinian statehood (“The PLO . . . declares that all outstanding issues relating to permanent status will be resolved through negotiations”).

    Not only did Arafat renounce the use of force against Israel — unilaterally, with no reciprocation — and agree to suppress resistance to the occupation on Israel’s behalf, he did so with no commitment from the occupiers to stop confiscating Palestinian land to expand Jewish settlements, roads, or military installations.

    The Palestinian-American historian Rashid Khalidi has called Arafat’s move “a resounding, historic mistake, one with grave consequences for the Palestinian people.” Edward Said labeled it “an instrument of Palestinian surrender, a Palestinian Versailles.” Haidar Abdel-Shafi, who headed the official Palestinian delegation to the US-sponsored post–Gulf War peace talks, condemned the deal and its “terrible sacrifices,” calling it “in itself an indication of the terrible disarray in which the Palestinians find themselves.” Mahmoud Darwish, the Palestinian national poet and author of the 1988 Declaration of Independence, resigned from the PLO leadership in protest.

    One of the most underappreciated facts about the Oslo agreement, as the quotes above attest, is that among its most vehement Palestinian critics were not just the opponents of the two-state solution but its most committed and long-standing supporters — those like Khalidi, Said, Darwish, or Shafi, who as far back as the early 1970s had taken what was then the lonely step of urging a Palestinian reckoning with the bitter verdict of 1948.
    Truth and Consequences

    “We learned the lesson of Oslo,” Khaled Meshaal, the Qatar-based head of Hamas’s external politburo, told a reporter from the French daily Le Figaro late last month. “In 1993 Arafat recognized Israel, which gave him nothing in return.”

    He contrasted Arafat’s blunder with what he portrayed as Hamas’s shrewder balancing act. In 2017, the group adopted a new charter — a project Meshaal personally spearheaded — which embraced a two-state solution and excised the antisemitic language and apocalyptic bellicosity of the original 1988 founding statement.

    But, it did so, he stressed, “without mention of recognition of Israel by Hamas.”

    Meshaal “suggests that when the ‘time comes’ — that is, with the creation of a Palestinian state — the question of recognizing Israel will be examined,” Le Figaro reported. “But since not everyone in Hamas is in agreement, he doesn’t want to go any further.”

    Hamas’s top political leadership had spent the years leading up to October 7 trying to position Hamas as a respectable diplomatic interlocutor, one that could someday succeed where Arafat had failed in clinching Palestinian statehood. All of that came crashing down with the atrocities of October 7, leaving observers perplexed about what exactly had happened, and why.

    Almost immediately there were murmurings among diplomats, journalists, and intelligence officials about some kind of split within Hamas. But only occasionally was the case stated as bluntly as it was by Hugh Lovatt, an expert on Palestinian politics at the European Council on Foreign Relations, who was quoted in late October saying: “The brutal violence deployed by Hamas against Israeli civilians represents a power grab by radicals in the military wing, cornering political moderates who advocated dialogue and compromise.”

    Over the last two weeks, more details have surfaced.

    In a report late last month for the pro-Israel Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Ehud Yaari, an Israeli specialist on Arab politics with close ties to the country’s security establishment, wrote about “Growing Internal Tensions Between Hamas Leaders,” citing “extensive private conversations with numerous regional sources.”

    “The specific details of the [October 7] attack,” Yaari reported, “appear to have come as a complete surprise to [Hamas chairman Ismail] Haniyeh and the rest of the external leadership.” They had given approval for a cross-border attack, but not like the one that ended up being carried out.

    Only a “core group of commanders” had been involved in the detailed planning for October 7, Yaari reported. These included Hamas’s Gaza strongman Yahya Sinwar, plus two top commanders of the military wing (known as the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades), one of whom is Sinwar’s brother Mohammed.

    It was this group, Yaari alleges, that at the last minute inserted new orders — to “murder as many civilians as possible, capture hostages, and destroy Israeli towns” — into the battle plan. The plan was withheld from Hamas’s field commanders “until a few hours before the operation.” (The October 7 operation was a joint action carried out by a coalition of forces from a number of different Palestinian armed factions, not just Hamas.)

    “The scope and brutality of the attack triggered criticism from external leaders” of Hamas, Yaari wrote, some of whom “sharply condemned Sinwar’s ‘megalomaniac’ search for grandeur” in “private conversations.”

    The last-minute changes to the battle plan might help to explain the surprising variation in victims’ testimonies about the attackers’ behavior. In an article published in Haaretz last month, for example, a resident of the Nahal Oz kibbutz, Lishay Idan, recounted her family’s ordeal and told of how, at Nahal Oz, “very strange things happened.”

    “A terrorist wearing camouflage and a green headband, who looked like he was in charge, told the hostages he was from Hamas’ military wing and it didn’t harm civilians. ‘They said they were only looking for soldiers and they didn’t harm women and children,’ Idan said.” Even as acts of extreme brutality were being committed against civilians by other attackers in the area, she explained, these particular fighters behaved differently.

    “It’s no simple thing for me to say this,” she concluded, “but it seems the cells that came to our kibbutz were better focused. In some cases they took humanitarian considerations into account.” They “brought us a blanket and pillows and told us to put the children to sleep,” and when her child needed to be fed, they “asked me to write down exactly where [a bottle of baby formula] was in the house” next door. “Lishay wrote it in Hebrew,” the article recounts, “the terrorists used Google Translate, and off they went.”

    A few other October 7 victims have recounted similarly discordant testimonies.

    Currently, top Hamas leaders are engaged in intensive “day-after” discussions with counterparts from Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party about the prospects for a national unity agreement — possibly including the long-discussed scenario of Hamas’s accession to the PLO, the recognized international representative body of the Palestinian people.

    According to Yaari, these talks are now exacerbating the split between Sinwar and the rest of the Hamas leadership:

    When reports of these talks reached Sinwar, he told Haniyeh that he considers this conduct “outrageous,” demanded that all contacts with the PLO and dissident Fatah factions be discontinued, and insisted that no consultations or statements on the “morning after” take place until a permanent ceasefire is reached.

    The external leadership has ignored Sinwar’s directive, however.

    A source who spoke to Le Figaro — a knowledgeable “Gazan notable” — went even further, claiming that “Israel isn’t alone in wanting [Sinwar] to lose. His friends in the political wing in Qatar and the Qataris themselves wouldn’t be unhappy if he were killed by Israel.”

    In a different world — a world where Israel preferred peace to conquest — one could imagine some devious Bismarck-like leader in Jerusalem watching over these machinations like a chess player, plotting to split Hamas, isolate the irreconcilables, and make a deal with a Palestinian national unity front.

    Or one could imagine, perhaps, some international mediator coming along to propose an agreement in which Israel would withdraw to its 1967 borders in exchange for, say, Hamas consenting to the destruction of its Gaza tunnels under UN supervision.

    Would Hamas agree to such a plan? Who can say? But it’s easy to guess what Netanyahu’s response would be.

    A decade ago, US Secretary of State John Kerry dispatched a team of US military advisers to Jerusalem to work out a plan that might satisfy Israel’s security concerns in the event of a peace agreement with the Palestinians and an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank.

    Netanyahu refused to let his generals cooperate with the American visitors.

    “You understand the significance of an American security plan that is acceptable to us?” Netanyahu asked his defense minister. “At that moment we’ll have to start talking borders.”

    Such are the consequences of Israel’s decades-long quest for Lebensraum. Repelled by the thought of security without conquest, terrified of “talking borders,” and encircled by enemies of its own making, a cornered Israel has finally absolved itself of its last moral obligation. It no longer feels bound to accept its neighbors’ physical existence. Whatever happens next, Israel will share responsibility with its accomplices.

    #Israël #Palestine #USA #histoire #OLP #Hamas #Irgun #sionisme #islam

  • Workers at a Boeing Supplier Raised Issues About Defects. The Company Didn’t Listen.

    La sous-traitance et le licenciement de techniciens expérimentés menace la sécurité des avions Boeing. Ces problèmes touchent toutee les entreprises et organisations qui sont gérées dans le but d’optimisation financière. Là c’est la vie des passagers qui est mise en danger, ailleurs on détruit des structures d’entraide et on oblige des millions d’employés à travailler pour un salair de misère. Les dégats se sentent partout, dans tous les pays capitalistes. Il n’y a que les symdicats et le mouvement ouvrier qui peuvent nous protéger contre.

    9.1.2024 by Katya Schwenk, David Sirota , Lucy Dean Stockton, Joel Warner - Less than a month before a catastrophic aircraft failure prompted the grounding of more than 150 of Boeing’s commercial aircraft, documents were filed in federal court alleging that former employees at the company’s subcontractor repeatedly warned corporate officials about safety problems and were told to falsify records.

    One of the employees at Spirit AeroSystems, which reportedly manufactured the door plug that blew out of an Alaska Airlines flight over Portland, Oregon, allegedly told company officials about an “excessive amount of defects,” according to the federal complaint and corresponding internal corporate documents reviewed by us.

    According to the court documents, the employee told a colleague that “he believed it was just a matter of time until a major defect escaped to a customer.”

    The allegations come from a federal securities lawsuit accusing Spirit of deliberately covering up systematic quality-control problems, encouraging workers to undercount defects, and retaliating against those who raised safety concerns. Read the full complaint here.

    Although the cause of the Boeing airplane’s failure is still unclear, some aviation experts say the allegations against Spirit are emblematic of how brand-name manufacturers’ practice of outsourcing aerospace construction has led to worrisome safety issues.

    They argue that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has failed to properly regulate companies like Spirit, which was given a $75 million public subsidy from Pete Buttigieg’s Transportation Department in 2021, reported more than $5 billion in revenues in 2022, and bills itself as “one of the world’s largest manufacturers of aerostructures for commercial airplanes.”

    “The FAA’s chronic, systemic, and longtime funding gap is a key problem in having the staffing, resources, and travel budgets to provide proper oversight,” said William McGee, a senior fellow for aviation and travel at the American Economic Liberties Project, who has served on a panel advising the US Transportation Department. “Ultimately, the FAA has failed to provide adequate policing of outsourced work, both at aircraft manufacturing facilities and at airline maintenance facilities.”

    David Sidman, a spokesperson for Boeing, declined to comment on the allegations raised in the lawsuit. “We defer to Spirit for any comment,” he wrote in an email to us.

    Spirit AeroSystems did not respond to multiple requests for comment on the federal lawsuit’s allegations. The company has not yet filed a response to the complaint in court.

    “At Spirit AeroSystems, our primary focus is the quality and product integrity of the aircraft structures we deliver,” the company said in a written statement after the Alaska Airlines episode.

    The FAA did not immediately respond to a request for comment on its oversight of Spirit.
    “Business Depends Largely on Sales of Components for a Single Aircraft”

    Spirit was established in 2005 as a spin-off company from Boeing. The publicly traded firm remains heavily reliant on Boeing, which has lobbied to delay federal safety mandates. According to Spirit’s own Securities and Exchange Commission filings, the company’s “business depends largely on sales of components for a single aircraft program, the B737,” the latest version of which — the 737 Max 9 — has now been temporarily grounded, pending inspections by operators.

    Spirit and Boeing are closely intertwined. Spirit’s new CEO Patrick Shanahan was a Trump administration Pentagon official who previously worked at Boeing for more than thirty years, serving as the company’s vice president of various programs, including supply chain and operations, all while the company reported lobbying federal officials on airline safety issues. Spirit’s senior vice president Terry George, in charge of operations engineering, tooling, and facilities, also previously served as Boeing’s manager on the 737 program.

    Last week’s high-altitude debacle — which forced an Alaska Airlines 737 Max 9’s emergency landing in Portland — came just a few years after Spirit was named in FAA actions against Boeing. In 2019 and 2020, the agency alleged that Spirit delivered parts to Boeing that did not comply with safety standards, then “proposed that Boeing accept the parts as delivered” — and “Boeing subsequently presented [the parts] as ready for airworthiness certification” on hundreds of aircraft.

    Then came the class-action lawsuit: In May 2023, a group of Spirit AeroSystems’ shareholders filed a complaint against the company, claiming it made misleading statements and withheld information about production troubles and quality-control issues before media reports of the problems led to a major drop in Spirit’s market value.

    An amended version of the complaint, filed on December 19, provides more expansive charges against the company, citing detailed accounts by former employees alleging extensive quality-control problems at Spirit.

    Company executives “concealed from investors that Spirit suffered from widespread and sustained quality failures,” the complaint alleges. “These failures included defects such as the routine presence of foreign object debris (‘FOD’) in Spirit products, missing fasteners, peeling paint, and poor skin quality. Such constant quality failures resulted in part from Spirit’s culture which prioritized production numbers and short-term financial outcomes over product quality, and Spirit’s related failure to hire sufficient personnel to deliver quality products at the rates demanded by Spirit and its customers including Boeing.”
    “We Are Being Asked to Purposely Record Inaccurate Information”

    The court documents allege that on Feruary 22, 2022, one Spirit inspection worker explicitly told company management that he was being instructed to misrepresent the number of defects he was working on.

    “You are asking us to record in a inaccurately [sic] way the number of defects,” he wrote in an email to a company official. “This make [sic] us and put us in a very uncomfortable situation.”

    The worker, who is unnamed in the federal court case, submitted an ethics complaint to the company detailing what had occurred, writing in it that the inspection team had “been put on [sic] a very unethical place,” and emphasizing the “excessive amount of defects” workers were encountering.

    “We are being asked to purposely record inaccurate information,” the inspection worker wrote in the ethics complaint.

    He then sent an email to Spirit’s then CEO, Tom Gentile, attaching the ethics complaint and detailing his concerns, saying it was his “last resort.”

    When the employee had first expressed concerns to his supervisor about the mandate, the supervisor responded “that if he refused to do as he was told, [the supervisor] would fire him on the spot,” the court documents allege.

    After the worker sent the first email, he was allegedly demoted from his position by management, and the rest of the inspection team was told to continue using the new system of logging defects.

    Ultimately, the worker’s complaint was sustained, and he was restored to his prior position with back pay, according to the complaint. He quit several months later, however, and claimed that other inspection team members he had worked with had been moved to new positions when, according to management, they documented “too many defects.”
    “Spirit Concealed the Defect”

    In August 2023, news broke that Boeing had discovered a defect in its MAX 737s, delaying rollout of the four hundred planes it had set to deliver this year. Spirit had incorrectly manufactured key equipment for the fuselage system, as the company acknowledged in a press statement.

    But these defects had been discovered by Spirit months before they became public, according to the December court filings.

    The court documents claim that a former quality auditor with Spirit, Joshua Dean, identified the manufacturing defects — bulkhead holes that were improperly drilled — in October 2022, nearly a year before Boeing first said that the defect had been discovered. Dean identified the issue and sent his findings to supervisors on multiple occasions, telling management at one point that it was “the worst finding” he had encountered during his time as an auditor.

    “The aft pressure bulkhead is a critical part of an airplane, which is necessary to maintain cabin pressure during flight,” the complaint says. “Dean reported this defect to multiple Spirit employees over a period of several months, including submitting formal written findings to his manager. However, Spirit concealed the defect.”

    In April 2023, after Dean continued to raise concerns about the defects, Spirit fired him, the complaint says.

    In October 2023, Boeing and Spirit announced they were expanding the scope of their inspections. The FAA has said it is monitoring the inspections, but said in October there was “no immediate safety concern” as a result of the bulkhead defects.
    “Emphasis on Pushing Out Product Over Quality”

    Workers cited in the federal complaint attributed the alleged problems at Spirit to a culture that prioritized moving products down the factory line as quickly as possible — at any cost. The company has been under pressure from Boeing to ramp up production, and in earnings calls, Spirit’s shareholders have pressed the company’s executives about its production rates.

    According to the Financial Times, after the extended grounding of Boeing’s entire fleet of 737 Max airlines following two major crashes in 2018 and 2019, “the plane maker has sought to increase its output rate and gain back market share it lost to Airbus,” its European rival.

    Spirit, which also produces airframe components for Airbus, has felt the pressure of that demand. As Shanahan noted in Spirit’s third-quarter earnings call on November 1, “When you look at the demand for commercial airplanes, having two of the biggest customers in the world and not being able to satisfy the demand, it should command our full attention.”

    According to the court records, workers believed Spirit placed an “emphasis on pushing out product over quality.” Inspection workers were allegedly told to overlook defects on final walkthroughs, as Spirit “just wanted to ship its completed products as quickly as possible.”

    Dean claimed to have noticed a significant deterioration in Spirit’s workforce after Spirit went through several rounds of mass layoffs in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, despite the huge influx in government funding they received.

    According to court documents, Dean said that “Spirit laid off or voluntarily retired a large number of senior engineers and mechanics, leaving a disproportionate number of new and less experienced personnel.”
    “Over-Tightening or Under-Tightening That Could Threaten the Structural Integrity”

    After the Alaska Airlines plane was grounded, United Airlines launched an independent inspection of its planes. Initial reporting shows that inspectors found multiple loose bolts throughout several Boeing 737 Max 9 planes. Alaska Airlines is currently conducting an audit of its aircraft.

    Concerns about properly tightened equipment were detailed in the federal complaint.

    “Auditors repeatedly found torque wrenches in mechanics’ toolboxes that were not properly calibrated,” said the complaint, citing another former Spirit employee. “This was potentially a serious problem, as a torque wrench that is out of calibration may not torque fasteners to the correct levels, resulting in over-tightening or under-tightening that could threaten the structural integrity of the parts in question.”

    According to former employees cited in the court documents, in a company-wide “toolbox audit,” more than one hundred of up to 1,400 wrenches were found out of alignment.

    On Spirit’s November earnings call, after investors pressed the company’s new CEO about its quality-control problems, Shanahan promised that the company was working to fix the issues — and its reputation.

    “The mindset I have is that we can be zero defects,” he said. “We can eliminate all defects. . . . But every day, we have to put time and attention to that.”

    #USA #aviation #sécurité #syndicalisme #travail #sous-traitance #salaire

  • The Swedish Left Failed the Vulnerable During the Pandemic

    Sweden’s “hands-off” COVID-19 response was hailed by libertarians abroad but also by most left-wingers at home. Far from enlightened, the Swedish left’s approach combined deference to authority with a disturbing faith in national exceptionalism.

    #in_retrospect #suède

  • South Africa Is Right To Invoke the Genocide Convention Against Israel’s War on Gaza

    South Africa has asked the International Court of Justice to rule that Israel is guilty of “genocidal acts” in Gaza. The architects of the Genocide Convention intended it to be used to stop the mass killing of civilians before it is too late.