An Israeli anarchist on Jewish resistance to the Israeli state

by Ilan Shalif - Interview by WSM

A snapshot of the early stages of the movement from 2000

In recent months Israeli opposition to the settler projects in Palestine has started to break into the mainstream media even if 'Anarchists against the Wall' are seldom mentioned by name. This interview from 2000 looks at the roots of this opposition.

Pogroms in Palestine
An Israeli anarchist on Jewish resistance to the Israeli state
Media coverage of the murderous pogroms unleashed by the Israeli state against Palestinians leaves out some of the story. The so-called 'peace process' like that of Northern Ireland is based on institutionalising sectarianism rather than overcoming it. There are citizens of Palestine and Israel, from both Jewish and Muslim backgrounds, who seek something other then two rival sectarian states. Ironically the ideology behind the pogroms is Zionism - the belief that Jews will only be safe from pogroms in a country run by Jews.

Indymedia Israel* has reported a number of joint demonstrations including "4,000 Jews and Palestinian-Israelis gathered in Haifa on the evening of the 21st of October [ ]for a rally under the slogan 'For A Just Peace & Full Equality.'" The report says "speakers, among other points, called for an end to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the removal of all settlers, an end to the officially sanctioned shootings by the Israeli Army of unarmed Palestinians in both the Occupied Territories and Israel, and full equality between Jewish and Palestinian Israelis." We talked to Ilan Shalif, an Israeli anarchist who has been active for many years in "persistent and principled opposition to Zionism".

"Before the current round of pogroms about 200 Israelis were really active - mainly around protests related to the demolition of Palestinian homes.In the last two big demonstrations against the suppression of the Palestinians, there were about 500 people. Among the 500 less than 50 of them can be regarded as very radical. This 50 includes anarchists and other libertarians communists."

"Until recently the left anti Zionist flag was raised only by the libertarian communist group Matspen, and we were never more than 30 activists - Jews and Palestinians. In 1972 one of our members was the first to resist conscription from an anti - Zionist position - this struggle was the origin of later political resistance to conscription or refusal to serve in the occupied regions."

"In February 1968 when we had the first demonstration against the 1967 war only 19 participated - including one member of the Communist Party* whom they wanted to expel for doing so. Even on a May 1970 demonstration of the Communist Party that we took part in, they threatened to attack us if we would not stop shouting "down with the occupation". However just after the 1982 Lebanon war, the anti-occupation movement was finally joined by the Zionist left.

A factor people are not aware of in Israel and abroad is the shift in power balance within the ruling class in Israel. Those capitalists who want to exploit the Palestinian workers and the workers of the neighbouring third world Arab countries are starting to gain hegemony over the old Zionist capitalists and bureaucrats.

Also the recent demonstrations of the Israeli Palestinians are rooted in contradictory processes. Firstly the Palestinians' morale is much stronger due to the defeat of part of the Zionist project - most clearly the fact they are forced to retreat from parts of the occupied lands. Secondly the legal status of the Israeli Palestinians has changed from barely legal and in fear of expulsion to the status of second class citizens. Many have become disillusioned with the Palestinian statelet and have started to prefer even second class citizenship of Israel, so their struggle for full citizenship has increased immensely.

The only short term solution that will be able to stabilise the region is the end of the 1967 occupations - a solution acceptable to the majority of Palestinians, a solution to the refugee problem, and equality for the Israeli Palestinians. As long as Israel uses its power to terrorise the Palestinians into submission no stability will be possible.

In the longer term Matspen adopted the position in the 60's that the conflict between the Zionist settler colonialists and the indigenous Palestinians can be resolved only in a socialist (i.e. libertarian communist) Middle East and not simply by any arrangement between the Israeli Jews and the Palestinians. The name of our new group 'East Mediterranean Anarchist Collective' reflects this. The geographic term"east of the Mediterranean sea" is free from any Zionist Israeli colour or Palestinian nationalist one. It is also different from the Eurocentric term "middle east" or "near east". As a bonus its meaning in Arabic is 'your mother'


** "The Communist party never opposed the 1948 'war of independence' (which formed the state of Israel), in fact Stalin supported it"

This page is from the print version of the Irish Anarchist paper Workers Solidarity This edition is No61 published in November 2000