Ángeles Diez – The limits of the Spanish “Left” on its defence of the Palestinian people

Posted: 02/05/2009 by editormary in Counter-terrorism, No thanks!, Mary\'s Choice, Newswire, Opinions and Letters, Palestine, Resistance, War, Zionism
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Translated into English by Manuel Talens and revised by Mary Rizzo

 

During the current Israeli aggression to Gaza both the Spanish Left and Right have built linguistic fences to position themselves around the problem. The case of the Spanish institutional Left is without any doubt paradigmatic: on one side there a party now in office – the Spanish Socialist Workers Party, PSOE – whose Minister of Foreign Affairs pretends to be a personal friend of Palestinians [1], whose Prime Minister Zapatero condemned the Israeli attacks during a PSOE meeting and whose militants (some of them) demonstrated in solidarity with Palestine. But on the other side, the government issued from this same party is among the ten main exporters of weapons to Israel, its secret services cooperates with their Israeli counterparts, it maintains preferential agreements with Tel Aviv, it supports the creation of the Sepharad-Israel House in Spain and it insists that what the party does is irrelevant to both the government’s performance and its State policies, which of course are to maintain very good diplomatic relations with “the great Israeli democracy” (so defined by the current UN President, Nicolas Sarkozy).

 

If this schizophrenic performance characterizes the party in office, the case of other Spanish organizations – labour unions and other left-wing groups with institutional vocation – is no less disturbing. While they have condemned Israel for its attacks, they also have emphasized their condemnation of Hamas as responsible for what happened to the Palestinians – although without mimicking Simon’s Peres accusations, – essentially sustaining the same justificatory arguments held by the Israeli government. They all have looked for a common denominator, a common language of consent – the same one that the Minister of Foreign Affairs Moratinos requests of the Palestinians when he says that “we don’t want unity but consent” – which would allow them to simultaneously show solidarity with Palestinians and be politically correct.

 

This consent has been built upon two taboos: never to use the word genocide and never question the Israeli democracy.

 

The objective result of building consent upon the negation of genocide and accepting the farce of Israeli democracy is a continuous complicity and the blockade of any fair option for the Palestinian people.

 

The imposition of consent betrays a far-reaching political objective in Spain. Either consciously or unconsciously it has intercepted the explosions of rage and pain by both Arab and Spaniards in the country, which have been systematically excluded, reprehended and silenced by the organized groups that led the manifestations of solidarity with the Palestinian people [2]. The Arabs of Spain went massively to all demonstrations in the country but were forced to accept the conditions imposed by these groups which organized the events, wrote the manifestos and chose “what actions were authorized and what not.” The fear that the immigrant Arab population – fully identified with the Palestinian cause – could explode and that this explosion could be considered as shared by the government has forced both the government and the Socialist party to a strategy to channel and control what the Left could carry out. [3]

 

The PSOE has managed to be part of all groups that organized actions and its interest in it was clear: to “normalize” them, to “control” them and to avoid any “radicalism,” as it risked to get out of hand considering what had happened in past demonstrations during the Iraq war. Clearly the PSOE wanted to avoid being forced to call the Israeli ambassador for consultations, to officially condemn the Israeli government or to interrupt the preferential relations with it.

 

As for other groups – unions, parties, some ONGs – a “minimum of consent” was essential to sustain the image of a not-radicalized-Left (so profitable from the institutional stand) while at the same time preserving the image of solidarity and the prestige of the slogan “another world is possible.” 

 

The Israeli genocide of Palestinians

 

The task of both PSOE militants and all other groups whose priorities are institutional was clear from the start: to provide all kinds of media, legal and economic support to demonstrations of solidarity with Gaza while intercepting all initiatives susceptible to friction with the Israeli government. That’s why the use of the word genocide was rejected in banners, manifestos, etc. under the threat of breaking the coalition of forces.

 

But why has it been so important to banish the word genocide from the vocabulary on any denunciation of Israel and of any act of solidarity with the Palestinian population? Why was the consented word massacre? Instead of looking into laws or international legislations, let’s see the definition of the word genocide in the Spanish Royal Academy Dictionary (DRAE): “extermination or systematic elimination of a social group for reasons of race, religion or politics.”

 

Historian Ilan Pappe carried out an exhaustive research on Jewish sources – unclassified documents from Israeli security services, Zionist files, Department of State reports, Ben Gurion’s files, military statements – and he reached the irrefutable conclusion that from the very moment of the foundation of the State of Israel the Jews planned the ethnic cleansing of Palestine. [4] In a recent piece he refers to different researchers who “call attention on the distinction between massacres that are part of a genocide, i.e., that are planned, and the unplanned massacres that directly happen out of hate and vengeance in the general context of an ethnic cleansing.” [5] All the indications and certainties of Israel’s “new historians” point to the fact that in the case of Israel’s acts against Palestinians they were massacres that happened in the context of the ethnic cleansing designed by the Israeli State, but at the same time, the original planning, systematization and political objectives made most of these massacres an integral part of the genocide against Palestinians. So if the ethnic cleansing – the genocide of Palestinians – is implicit to the foundational act of the Israeli nation, then the very existence of this State is delegitimized.

 

According to the DRAE the word massacre implies “slaughter of generally defenceless people produced by an armed attack or a similar cause.” If we substitute the word genocide for massacre we end up with a unplanned, not even intentional act against two, three or a hundred people but not against a people as a whole; a massacre is the result of “an armed attack or similar cause”, that is to say that it can be either the result of a war or that its causal relationship is directly related to an armed conflict so that the objective cannot be neither political – intended to eliminate people for racial, ethnic or political questions – nor its objective is to exterminate the civil population but rather it can be a unwanted consequence, uncontrolled hate by soldiers, a disproportion justified by technical questions… Finally, the people killed are – according to the DRAE – “generally defenceless” but maybe not. All of this means that a single word can be paramount to characterize and politically position people whether they use it or not. Words are neither neuter nor objective. In this case they characterize a conflict and place their users in one position or another.

 

From the point of view of the political costs, most of the organizations present in demonstrations did not risk anything before the mobilized masses as these did not perceive the difference between the words genocide and massacre; so organizers opted for the most acceptable term in order to safeguard all of their institutional contacts.

 

Beyond juridical considerations and the well-known pragmatism of law professionals, the definition of the attacks on Gaza as a massacre has contributed to halt any further analysis, considering it just as a regrettable but punctual fact similar to the destruction of Jenin in 2002. Calling it a “disproportionate attack” permits the filing of the case as a new example of the wrongdoings of certain leaders who maybe one day could be prosecuted for war crimes for their “errors” and their “disproportions.” Seen from a distance, the Spaniards’ image will be that of supportive human beings moved by the deaths of innocent people who after the “massacre” will return to mend their daily business after having done all that they could. By refusing to recognize the logic of manipulating words and scrutinizing the essence of the conflict and by adapting its speech to official requirements, the good-hearted and harmless Spanish “Left” has sided again – even without realizing it – with the wrong camp. 

 

Boycotting Israel

 

Neither Spanish institutions nor certain groups either favoured or compensated by their “efforts for peace” like to speak of boycotting Israel. A boycott implies to “deprive a person or an entity of all social or commercial exchanges in order to harm it and to force it to give in.” If all solidarity groups with Palestine ask – either politely or less so – that is it necessary to request Israel to abide by the United Nations resolutions, why do they give up an instrument as effective as the boycott as happened in South Africa?

 

In the case of Israel, requesting it to abide by the resolutions is like sending a letter to Santa Claus, even more considering the zero possibility of the UN either to force sanctions to Israel by the Security Council or to force it to abide by its resolutions. On top of that let’s not forget that the origin of the problem was the UN.

 

To deprive Israel of commercial exchanges could strangle its economy; its economy is not self-sufficient and its exchanges with Middle East countries would not allow Israel to commercially survive. On the other hand, its economy is strongly militarized, it depends on the US war industry and on the plundering of Palestinian resources. Israel would have a real problem if a boycott impacted on its commercial exchanges. In Spain there are groups which don’t refuse this kind of boycott because it can be carried out on an individual basis, it depends on the will of consumers and it permits justification of the resources spent on the necessary campaigns to increase sensitivity; a boycott would not jeopardize their institutional relations either. Other Spanish groups, it is true, defend this type of boycott with total sincerity.

 

The true problem arises when we think about an institutional boycott. From a political point of view a boycott of institutional relations with Israel has unacceptable implications to the Spanish State because the target of such a boycott is the democratic legitimacy of Israel. The aim of such a boycott would not have anything to do with the modification of a particular policy, or with the recognition of Palestinians, or with certain concession to the other part in conflict but with the very essence of the “Israeli democracy” in which there are discriminatory laws that mimic the South African apartheid system and create second class Arab Israeli citizens, i.e., the Law of Nationality that establishes differences in acquiring citizenship for Jews and non-Jews; the Law of Citizenship which forbids Israeli citizens to marry a resident of the occupied Palestinian territories [6]; the Law of Return which establishes that any Jew of the world can obtain citizenship and many privileges if he/she moves to Israel; as well, there are more than 11.000 Palestinian political prisoners in Israel to whom they apply military justice and the practice of torture is accepted by Israel based upon the British Command laws, etc.

 

The boycott entertains the possibility that both citizens and institutions could carry out actions that they depend entirely on them, not on the will of Israel nor of their own governments. This would suppose the breaking, even partial, of Israeli impunity. The impotence and the discouragement that generates an International Community unable to force Israel to abide by the UN resolutions and the message of a powerful Israel against whom nothing can be done would crumble with actions controlled by citizens and institutions (universities, sport organizations, foundations, unions, parties).

 

The blockade of the words genocide and boycott by the Spanish institutionalized “Left” neutralizes and deactivates the struggle against Israeli Zionism and reduces almost all the country’s political spectrum to the role of mere spectators who watch it with “indignation” and then scratch their pockets obeying Moratinos’ order to concentrate themselves on the humanitarian aid, so politically profitable. Meanwhile Palestinians will continue being bad victims because they will prefer, even at the cost of being murdered either slowly or quickly, to continue resisting and fighting for their territory. 

 

Notes

 

[1] Today Moratinos is one of the Israeli government’s main champions in Spain up to the point of having apologized to  Minister Tizpi Livni. He says he will try to reform the Spanish legislation so that it won’t permit again the prosecution of military Israelis on the charges of war crimes, as it has just happened at the Spanish National Audience on January 29th, 2009.

 

[2] The Arabs showed up massively at the first meeting before the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Madrid (January 3rd, 2009), responding to the call of mosques. They overflowed the organizers, generating a spontaneous demonstration that walked toward the Israeli embassy and blocked important Madrid avenues. From that moment on it was clear to the PSOE that the danger of overflow had to be avoided.

 

[3] In fact, this channelling and control strategy was implemented by the PSOE just after the March 11 Madrid’s Atocha bombing in 2004: it created a federal group of “socialist Arabs” inside the secretary of social “Movements and relations with NGOs”. At the Ministry of Justice it also created the Pluralism and Coexistence Foundation to offer courses on both Islam and democratic principles, sponsor seminars on the integration of Muslims and follow-up the congresses of the Islamic communities in Spain, etc.

[4] Ilan Pappe, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, Oneworld, 2006.

[5] Ibidem, “Demons of the Nakba”, Al-Ahram, May 17, 2002.

 

[6] If this happens the Jew loses all his/her rights as an Israeli citizen.

 

 

Source in Spanish: Los límites de la “izquierda” en su defensa del pueblo palestino

 

Ángeles Diez is professor of Political Sciences at the Madrid Complutense University. She has a PhD on Contemporary Latin America. She has done research work on collective action, social movements and NGOs.

 

The Spanish writer and translator Manuel Talens is a member of Tlaxcala, the Translators’ Network for Linguistic Diversity.

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Comments
  1. LanceThruster says:

    In the student paper at my own learning insitution, an op-ed peice talks about the “genocidal” actions of Hamas. I find the “180 rule” is useful for translating in these matters as the Zionist side most often accuses the other side of the crimes it commits.

  2. Mary Rizzo says:

    That’s a good point Lance. Whoever controls the terminology controls the discourse and thus shapes the consensus and gets votes and makes policy and rules the world.

    btw, i forgot to thank you before for that wonderful comment you left on Gilad’s post. I read it with a smile on my face, but was too busy moderating comments to be able to reply. but now, I want to say THANKS!!!!

  3. Mary Rizzo says:

    (remember, I only helped in the translation, am not the author, but this site template does not allow a Mary’s Choice piece to have another author until it goes off the top position here!)

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