The conference in Bil'in

The strange cooperation of the anarchists with capitalist and "nationalist" ruling elites
Over the past two days, we held an international conference in Bil'in about and in solidarity with the struggle against the fence. It was organized by the Bil'in joint project of struggle against the fence, which for the last 12 months has been carried on by the local popular committee together with the Anarchist Against The Wall initiative.

Though more a colonialist settler project than a normal form of colonial rule, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has some similarity with "regular" colonialism, and more so at the present stage of global capitalism and local (regional) capitalism. It is not strange that in a world of de-colonization and globalized capitalism, the last remaining colonial projects still in existence are under pressure to come to an end. It is even so in regions where, for example, the colonial aspect was, or is, mixed with nationalist repression (like in Ireland, Turkey and Israel/Palestine) and is subject more to international pressure to end when it involves settler colonialism in progress (like in Indonesia and Israel).

In the case of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, although the settler colonialist nature of colonialism was dominant, the first step towards de-colonization was still copied from other capitalist states - compromise with the exiled leadership of the "national liberation movements".

As in other parts (and more so in Algeria, where the cost of suppressing the local uprising became too great) the co-opting of the exiled leadership seemed to be the first choice. Thus, like the French pact with the exiled leadership of the FLN, Israel tried to reach a pact with the exiled leadership of the PLO. However, the transfer of power to the leadership of de-colonized countries that worked in most places, failed in the Israeli-Palestinian case. It could not succeed here as the forces interested in the continuation of settler colonialism were not defeated completely, and the "de-colonization" steps were very limited.

It is by no means strange that there is support for the end of colonial rule from a large section of Israeli capitalists, given that it has become an economic burden for them. It is not even out of the question that this section of the capitalist elite will support/cooperate - like in other countries - with radicals who struggle against the continuation of colonial rule by their countries over other countries. It is, however, a bit strange when the cooperation/support is given in the case of Israel to an initiative by the name of "Anarchists Against The Wall" (AATW). It is even stranger when the anarchists enter into intensive cooperation with the media... which so often tries hard not to express open support for the Anarchists. And it is very strange indeed when the whole radical left follows the initiative of the Anarchists who organize the weekly struggle in the Palestinian village Bil'in together with the local popular committee.

Is not so strange, however, that the anarchists enter such cooperation when people understand how the colonialist situation, and more so the settler colonialist one, makes it hard to struggle against the "colonization" of the minds of the working people by capitalist ideology.

The struggle of anti-authoritarian anti-capitalists against the colonialism of other states by the ruling elites of their own countries is of more benefit in the de-colonization of the minds of people in their communities than in the de-colonization of the people of the colonies, by replacing external rule with that of a local elite which often make their lives worse.

And the strange situation in the Israeli-Palestinian struggle provides us with a unique opportunity to struggle for the freedom of the minds of the Israeli working people.

In a way, the strange situation is the result of the impasse in the decolonization of the Palestinian regions colonized by Israel after the 1967 war

It is not so strange that efforts to co-opt the exiled Palestinian leadership of the PLO failed, as the de-colonization of a half-successful settler colonialist project involves much more than a shift between sections of the mainly monolithic capitalist elite.

And the process became stuck because Israel refused to give the PLO leadership enough power and resources to enable them to replace the resistance of the more radical rebels, who refuse to let go of the struggle against remnants of the settler colonial project in the regions conquered in the 1967 war. Israel refused to give the PLO the necessary resources because the change in the balance of power and interests within the Israeli elite was not radical enough - those who had an interest in seeing a continuation of as much settler colonialism as possible were still too strong.

It is no surprise that authoritarians of the left (including Leninists and Moaists) became partners of the various nationalist capitalist elites that led the "national liberation" of colonies (and, in the Israeli-Palestinian case, of the Palestinian nationalist capitalist elite, the PLO). However, what does need some explanation is the cooperation of the anti-authoritarian, anti-capitalist left in Israel with willing partners in the "Palestinian national liberation" area. It started back in the '60s and continues today on a greater scale with today's anarchists (of the Anarchists Against The Wall initiative).

The reason for this is not for any gut feeling of sympathy with the underdog. Nor is it based on feelings of guilt for enjoying the results of the colonial project. The reason is because we understand the negative "contribution" of the settler colonialist project to the reactionary opinions of both Israeli and Palestinian working people, and we correctly assess how such cooperation, and more so popular direct action, can undermine the nationalist ideologies of both sides.

The section of Israeli capital that has an interest in seeing an end to settler colonialism is not made up of secret anarchists... nor do they like our messages. But they are anxious enough to overcome the influence of the capitalist section of the ruling elite that still supports settler colonialism.

They have invested a lot of effort in getting a majority of public opinion to support the end of the settler colonialist project, but this majority is still fragile.

Thus, the section of the capitalist elite that wants an end to settler colonialism is investing heavily in changing public opinion through the use of the media. They are using our joint struggle to give space in the media to the discrediting of settler colonialism and "paying" us by giving space to our direct-action struggle and the anarchist way in general. In fact, we have an increasingly positive presence in the media, and its effects can be seen in the behaviour of the State forces - gradually diminishing violence. Hard as it is to believe, at least five soldiers who were on duty around the concluding meeting during our international conference came closer in order to listen to the talks being given at it...

The Palestinian ruling elite is in an even worse position.

The partial co-opting of the PLO leadership has not resulted in a stable compromise with the partial retreat of the settler colonialist project. Their "corrupt third-world social order" has failed to become strong enough to repress the more radical elements among the Palestinians. This failure has caused mounting pressure by the Israeli State on the Palestinian elite to yield results, pressure which has only led to the rise to power of Hamas. It has also caused a loss of hope among the villagers living along the route of the separation fence, that the Palestinian leaders can lead a struggle against the fence, a fact which forced them to initiate a struggle themselves.

The various local struggles that the Israeli anarchists have participated in have indeed achieved some results. The presence of Israeli anarchists at the joint demonstrations has reduced the vicious brutality of the State forces while dispersing the demonstrations. It has also drawn much greater attention from the international and Israeli media... The joint pre-Bil'in struggles of the previous year and a half at other villages succeeded in gaining publicity, obtaining results and fostering trust, and led to the initiation of the joint struggle in Bil'in. It also led to the other current joint struggles of AATW with grassroot groups of Palestinian villagers who have invited us to join them (Abud, Beit-Sira, Hebron, and more).

Over the past two days, we held an international conference in Bil'in about and in solidarity with the struggle against the fence. It was organized by the Bil'in joint project of struggle against the fence, which for the last 12 months has been carried on by the local popular committee together with the Anarchist Against The Wall initiative. The ruling Fatah leadership has not promoted popular non-violent direct action and struggle against the fence, even with the upsurge in it since Israeli anarchists became involved. They had many obvious reasons for not doing so. However, little by little, they have got involved in it, even to the extent of trying to co-opt it. Indeed, just before the shift of power within the Palestinian capitalist elite, several dignitaries participated in certain ways, for example by joining in some of the weekly Friday demonstrations.

The efforts of the Palestinian elite to profit from the popular struggle against the separation fence in general, and more so in Bil'in, have gradually been mounting. They have sent dignitaries to the large demonstrations and once even held a session of their "government" in Bil'in, even though it was not their initiative and in spite of the well-known fact that it is a joint project by local committees and Israeli anarchists. In one case, a high ranking official went so far as to issue a formal letter of support to the AATW... and surprise surprise, even the local Hamas people and their regional leadership failed to keep their distance and joined in the Friday demos.

Our "tolerance" of the involvement of the more or less corrupt persons of the Palestinian ruling elite and their competitors is a must. Even the local popular committees do not seem to be too happy with it, but they understand the limits that local grassroots activists have and the "political taxes" they need to pay to the political elite in a position of power. And thus, when Israeli-Palestinian MPs and Palestinian MPs participated in our Friday demos, they got their "taxes" with microphone time.

Besides local activists and AATW activists, the conference in Bil'in included participants from many Western countries and, more importantly, from people in local struggles from the other regions of Palestine - from Hebron (Halil) in the south to Jenin in the north. It also drew dignitaries of the PLO and Fatah leadership, to get their "taxes".

Talks were given at a plenary session by PLO dignitaries (Fatah and others, past and present members of of the PNA), but also by international guests involved in our common struggle in their own countries. Grassroot activists also reported on their local struggles. The main discussions took place in workgroups, each centered on the struggle along a specific part of the separation fence. In these, some conclusions were reached about the past, and suggestions for future struggles were arrived at. Some of these were integrated into a final text of the conference.

And true to the Bil'in mode, the conference could not end without a march towards the route of the fence, which took place around noon on the second day of the conference. Surprise, surprise it met with no resistance from the State forces. We crossed the route and continued on to the Bil'in centre for joint struggle for peace which was recently built on the western side of the fence. The centre was built on a plot adjacent to the building site of a sector of the illegal settler colony, Modi'in Illit, being built on land stolen from Bil'in.

But no, the State's armed forces did not totally desert us. Though they did not try to block our march, they circled around us, putting a line of soldiers west of our meeting at the Bil'in centre, arranging it as if to block our way if we tried to rush and attack the adjacent illegal buildings in the nearby section of the Modi'in Illit settler colonialist town. (This section is currently under an injunction from the highest court, banning all construction work and occupation.)

At the meeting near the centre some more speeches were made. After the talks ended, a soccer game was played and an opportunity was given to media workers to take their photographs, videos and interviews. People then got back to Bil'in and made their way home.