Peoples Geography — Reclaiming space

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New Year's Convergence on Gaza (Updated)


March on Gaza Facebook posterSpearheaded by Norman Finkelstein and other organizers, a bold new plan has been hatched to break the illegal siege and to enforce the law: a convergence of international visitors upon Gaza is planned for the New Year in a show of strength and numbers. Currently in progress, the plan is to have about 5000 internationals with Jimmy Carter, Bishop Tutu and Nelson Mandela invited to lead. There is now a growing Facebook page.

Not everyone is impressed with Finkelstein’s plans however, nor what are described as patronising attitudes towards Palestinians for whom he prescribes the untenable two-state solution according to Moments of Gaza blogger (thanks Marcy):

Tarzan in Africa

So, Norman Finkelstein visited the Gaza Strip around a month ago with the Code Pink delegation that came in via the Rafeh Crossing.

Norman Finkelstein in “my” opinion is an excellent researcher, his books on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict are widely read…

But, when Norman Finkelstein visited Gaza, “I” [and many other Palestinian intellectuals and political analysts] were… disappointed.

Norman Finkelstein spoke to Hamas officials in Gaza, and told them “what they have to do,” to… “turn down the rhetoric,” and accept the two-prison- oops- I mean the “two-state” solution.

Norman Finkelstein decided to call for a breaking of the siege by US citizens coming into Gaza marching to the Beit Hanoun Crossing [known as Erez Crossing on the Israeli side]. So, Norman Finkelstein comes to Gaza for… four days and he: takes on the leadership of the Palestinian civil resistance.

Now… don’t get me wrong. “We” welcome any initiative to break this medieval, hermetic siege on Gaza. I mean, if Norman Finkelstein is capable of organizing a march that can manage the oppressive, totalitarian, dictatorial Egyptian regime, open the Rafeh Crossing, break the Apartheid wall, then go to “Erez” to break the siege- we support him!
However, the siege is part of a political umbrella.
The BDS movement shows nowhere on the radar of Norman Finkelstein.

Norman Finkelstein did not show any support for the inalienable right of return for the six million refugees, the core of the… “conflict.”

Norman Finkelstein did not admit to the fact that the two-prison solution is a… racist solution, a 19th century idea which does NOT support the INALIENABLE right of return.

Norman Finkelstein: Israel is an occupation; it is the longest occupation the 20th century has witnessed, of the WB and GS, it is a colonization, and is an Apartheid; against the 1948 indigenous population, not to mention its Bantustanization of the GS and WB.

In the last genocidal war against the Palestinians, more than 93% of the Israeli citizens supported war crimes in Gaza. “Israel now looks very much like Germany in the 1930s” says Gideon Levy from Ha’aretz.
“I” mean: who supported a two state solution in Apartheid South Africa? A state for the Black and a state for the… White?

Norman Finkelstein must choose a side: with oppression or against oppression.

Uri Avnery, Peace Now, patronizingly will reply back saying he accepts the return of only… 20,000 refugees. He is anti-BDS and anti-ROR [right of return]. He is… a “leftist” Zionist… from when does the “left” accept a … religious state? [or state to begin with]. He is like the “master” who decides. “I” mean… am “I” stupid? How can a democratic state exist when it has a… religious identity?! I must be really stupid here Uri, I mean… for me not to understand your “democracy.”

Israel must transfer to a secular, democratic state a la South Africa.
Meaning: a state for ALL of its citizens disregarding gender, race or religion.
I mean… I am really disappointed with Norman Finkelstein’s visit to Gaza.

As soon as PACBI was founded in 2004, the Knesset formed a committee which included Ehud Barak, Tzipi Livni and Bejamin Netanyahu, with Uri Avnery behind the curtains, to counteract it.
The worst thing to hear right now is…”let the Palestinians decide what their fate will be.” Really? Was that the case with South Afica? The BDS and One Democratic state are UNIVERSALISTIC in their slogans: social justice, secularism, democracy…
In South Africa, no one said okay for Bantustans!

When Norman Finkelstein came forward after an ISM Gaza talk in the Commodore Hotel in the port area in Gaza, he said “gather up students from the US group, and let them get on the borders with cameras- let’s see if their [Israeli soldiers] are going to shoot when America is watching!”

Norman… you completely neglect the Palestinian civil resistance that existed since… 1936. Yes, I assure you. We, Arabs did have that going on. But, will the White man ever challenge his standards of “us”?
If Norman Finkelstein flirts with Zionism… then?

Here is Norman Finkelstein discussing the initiative (r/t 9.49), followed by Daily Star coverage of the plans. His views on the Israel Lobby have not however improved (thanks Dave).

(Meanwhile, following the success of Viva Palestine UK, Viva Palestina US is also setting out to Gaza by the land route. And by sea, the Free Gaza campaign is still going, and hopefully listening rather than lecturing to the already strong civil movement there.)

Activists plan March to break Gaza siege
By Richard Hall
Wednesday, July 01, 2009 | The Daily Star

BEIRUT: A coalition of activists belonging to various Palestinian solidarity organizations are planning an international march in Gaza aimed at ending the blockade of the territory. The event will aim to bring thousands of demonstrators from around the world to march alongside Gazans as they breach the blockade imposed upon the population since the election of Hamas in 2006.

“This march draws inspiration from Mahatma Gandhi,” said a draft statement of purposes and principles written by the “Coalition to End the Illegal Siege of Gaza,” obtained by The Daily Star. “Those of us residing in the United States also draw inspiration from the civil rights movement,” it added.

The statement also outlines plans for the march, which will take place on January 1, 2010. “We will march the Long Mile across Erez checkpoint alongside the people of Gaza in a nonviolent demonstration that breaches the illegal blockade,” it said, adding that “We conceive this march as the first step in a protracted nonviolent campaign … If we bring thousands to Gaza and millions more around the world watch the march on the internet, we can end the siege without a drop of blood being shed.”

Professor Norman Finkelstein, a political analyst and author of several books on the Israel-Palestine conflict, is one of the organizers of the march. “We want to send over several thousand people from around the world to march alongside several hundred thousand Gazans,” he told The Daily Star.

Finkelstein hopes that large numbers of international activists and world leaders will attend the march, and as a result, prohibit a violent response from Israeli authorities. “If the likes of Jimmy Carter, Noam Chomsky, Bishop Tutu and Nelson Mandela are at the head of the march; if behind them are students holding high signs of the schools from which they hail – Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Oxford, Cambridge; if behind them are the ill and the lame, the young and the innocent of Gaza; if behind them are hundreds of thousands of others, unarmed and unafraid, wanting only to enforce the law; if around the world hundreds of thousands are watching the internet to see what happens – Israel can’t shoot,” he said.

“The first formal organizational meeting of the coalition is set for July 13,” said Finkelstein. “We hope then to create an umbrella steering committee. Right now the working group consists of individuals who belong to organizations that have been active on the Israel-Palestine conflict such as CodePink.”

Members of the coalition are now contacting Palestinian solidarity groups around the world in preparation for the march.

17 comments on “New Year's Convergence on Gaza (Updated)

  1. Delinda Hanley
    9 July, 2009

    Do you want the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs to send an “Action Alert” out about this?

  2. i think it is worth considering palestinian perspectives on this, particularly in gaza. the bloggers at moments of gaza are not too pleased about it:

    The White Man Teaches the Native
    SO, did I not tell you about Mr. Finkelstein’s discovery of civil resistance and suddenly teaching the Palestinians… “how to fight”?
    Off the record, Mr. Finkelstein: the first twenty years of the Palestinian struggle was a civil, non-violent resistance. After 1967, Palestinian civil resistance went hand in hand with armed strugle…

    and here is a longer post on finkelstein in gaza, and this response sounds quite a bit like to palestinians in shatila refugee camp who attended a lecture by finkelstein a couple of years ago who had quite similar reactions to his lecturing especially with respect to his position on right of return:

  3. ok so i have one more bit to add. the poster for this event which i just saw on facebook is a poster of finkelstein himself. is this not the essence of the white man leading the native? seriously disturbing.

  4. max
    11 July, 2009

    I think it’s worth mentioning that Orientalists with values perfectly-reversed like Marcy Newman should perhaps not be given a pulpit at this website. The people leading the march are to be affluent Westerners for a simple reasons: otherwise, the IDF will shoot them down without a whit of remorse.

    I do see the point, though: they will have died in vain, asserting their subjectivity, defying Euro-centric something-or-other. When children are starving, one must have ones priorities straight–in this case, infantile posturing taking precedence.

  5. Doug Tarnopol
    12 July, 2009

    This is a truly idiotic post. If and when any of the bloggers here have a career like Finkelstein’s or have an idea to stop the siege on the scale of Finkelstein’s, well, we’ll probably have seen the second coming by then.

    Obviously, Finkelstein isn’t the Great White Leader, as anyone who read his book on his time in Palestine would know. He’s trying to break the siege, period. If others have better ideas, I’d like to hear it. In other words, what Max said is obviously the truth.

    Finkelstein is well aware of nonviolent Palestinian resistance. And, you know what? I, a Great White Jew who gives a damn about Palestine, has a train to catch to go help organize this march. So, I think I’m done with the posturings on Marcy Newman. Nothing so worthless as a game of ideological chicken.

  6. Finebeer
    12 July, 2009

    I’m going to speak out in favor of Marcy Newman and Natalie Abu Shakra. When NGF addressed Sabra and Shatila camp a couple of years ago, many Palestinians were dismayed at his rigid lecturing. The above commenter’s identification of Finkelstein as the “Great White Jew” is pretty tribal and just illustrates the problem. Since when is discounting the views of two women actually in the Middle East on the ground playing ideological chicken? No, that’s what Finkelstein and Chomsky play when they deny the influence of the Israel Lobby.

  7. max
    12 July, 2009

    1 thing Doug–the bloggers here are not associated with Marcy Newman; her comment was an addendum and went up after the original post (I for one like their work, as opposed to hers).


  8. max
    12 July, 2009

    Where does one start? The hostile illiteracy? The above commenter mockingly self-referred as the “Great White Jews”; there’s a problem, certainly, but not with sarcasm.

    As for the “Israel Lobby”: I just watched a video asserting that Finkelstein believes the Israel Lobby affects US policy vis-a-vis the peace process. How is that “denying the influence”?

  9. for the record i do know norman and deeply respect his academic writing and am indebted to it in many ways. and i was one of the people, along with a colleague at depaul university, who co-organized a tenure defense campaign for norman.

    that said, i was one of the people who attended that lecture in shatila refugee camp mentioned above where the entire audience was horrified at the way they were lectured at by norman about the right of return, which he does not support.

    of course i believe in strategies to end the siege of ALL of palestine, not just gaza. but the issue is who is doing the organizing and who are they working in solidarity with? if palestinians on the ground in gaza are feeling lectured at and being told what will be done rather than seeing what they need and want and working in solidarity with them, i am not in support of such an action.

    i’m not a knee-jerk leftist who is against any action that doesn’t meet my own ideological criteria 100%. but i do believe very deeply in respecting the rights and desires of palestinians on the ground. and what do they want (here, in lebanon, in gaza)? well the people i know–they want the right of return and for solidarity activists to support boycott, divestment, and sanctions.

  10. m.idrees
    12 July, 2009

    I hadn’t seen this post or the responses it has generated. I think many separate issues have been conflated here. I agree that Finkelstein is a superb scholar and his initiative for a march on Gaza is a worthy one and must be fully supported. However, that doesn’t mean one can’t question its strategic logic when Finkelstein (and Chomsky) have either refused to take a position on or outright opposed Palestiniain’s own preferred means of civil struggle: the call for BDS. Also, Finebeer is correct, both Chomsky and Finkelstein have deflected attention from the one thing that US citizens are actually in a position to do something about: the power of the lobby. Max, is correct, that Finkelstein says the lobby influences the peace process. But it influences so much more. And Finkelstein is completely disingenuous when he downplays its influence on both domestic and middle east policy beyond I-P. How, then, does he explain the AIPAC-drafted ILSA which prevented US businesses from trading with Iran and Libya? How does he explain ILA? How does he explain the successive legislations on Iran rammed through by AIPAC? And AIPAC and the Israel lobby are not synonymous. The lobby is a power structure that includes not just AIPAC, but think-tanks, federations, commentators, PR organization, media institutions, campus watchdog groups, youth groups, and much more.

    Anyway, this is a serious matter and deserves more thorough attention. I’ll post on it soon.

  11. Finebeer
    13 July, 2009

    “If you have come to help me, you are wasting your time. If your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”

    Lila Watson/ Aboriginal activists group QLD, 1970

  12. max
    13 July, 2009

    I was about to post a reply to another person here, got furious, wrote something sectarian and divisive (in response to the sectarian and divisive commentary that’s sprouted like dandelions) and then I said fuck it: I might as well have a conversation with a human being. So here goes.

    “However, that doesn’t mean one can’t question its strategic logic when Finkelstein (and Chomsky) have either refused to take a position on or outright opposed Palestiniain’s own preferred means of civil struggle: the call for BDS.”

    I disagree. For several reasons: one, the march will be the march, with effects that are its effects. This might seem the most banal tautology. But the point is that it makes sense to me to assess the march in terms of its likely consequences, and condition support or non-support on that. The likely consequences, over here from my privileged perch, conditioned by 180 years of Western institutional racism (ok, Finebeer, now you don’t have to say it!) will be the lifting of the siege of Gaza. If it’s carried out in a sectarian manner, then it’ll fail. I see no logical or moral connection between Chomsky’s position on BDS and Finkelstein’s position on BDS and this march.

    I parenthetically utterly fail to understand why it is that Americans who are the ones presumably (?) with a better understanding of American society, ideology, institutions, etc., can’t make their own tactical judgments about the efficacy or lack-thereof of BDS OR its various iterations (in the American sense specifically taking on a different target is necessary, in a way, since American materiel and diplomatic support is the linchpin of the occupation).

    Next: “Also, Finebeer is correct, both Chomsky and Finkelstein have deflected attention from the one thing that US citizens are actually in a position to do something about: the power of the lobby.”
    This really isn’t true, but we’re not going to settle it here. The notion that the Israel Lobby is setting the general terms of American foreign policy in the Middle East is the most anti-materialist analysis I can imagine. It has its effects on the margins, sure, but where it plays an axial role is the I-P conflict. US citizens are also in a “position” to do something about many things. I again don’t see the relevance of this.

    Again, I don’t think this is a time or a place for posturing but for discussion. In that spirit I quote something someone wrote over my way:

    “Shouldn’t such a campaign have a steering commitee on which the people of Gaza are effectively represented before it goes out? What if Israeli response to this campaign is not to shoot Noam Chomsky but to let them pass peacefully and then bomb Khan Younis? don’t the people of Khan Younis has a right to be consulted, consider the risk, decide that it is or isn’t worth it? Shouldn’t Palestinian grassroots organizers in the U.S. be involved? Why hasn’t NF taken the basic step of announcing this initiative publicly AFTER making these consultations and creating an initial skeleton of a leadership? Where is the awareness that the basis of the campaign is using class and race privilege? Where is this awareness reflected in how the campaign has been announced (with a picture of NF)? The ISM has been doing similar things for years, and has always been transparent and conscious about that; it isn’t THAT hard.

    Please use your face time at the meeting to reduce the shrillness but also help NF take the wax out of his ears. This is too important, and in the end it will NF’s fault if this campaign becomes divisive.”

    A rather different and rather more productive way of dealing with the issue than some others have chosen.

  13. m.idrees
    13 July, 2009

    “The likely consequences, over here from my privileged perch, conditioned by 180 years of Western institutional racism (ok, Finebeer, now you don’t have to say it!) will be the lifting of the siege of Gaza.”

    You sound like a genuine optimist. I’d be surprised if anyone gets to within a mile of the border. State’s have long found means of preventing such mass mobilizations before they can even materialize. And even if such a march were to succeed what is to prevent Israel from reimposing the siege right the next day? And no, this thing can’t be separated from the the questions of political power in the US, because its success or failure depends on the coverage it is able to garner in the US. I am not holding my breath for the NYT to give it front page coverage. Even if Huffington Post does, it will balance it with 20 ‘liberal’ Jewish bloggers who will remind you how Jimmy Carter and Desmond Tutu are Nazi loving anti-Semites. If you are expecting alternative media to turn the tables, then we have simply entered the realm of fantasy.

    As regards BDS, it worked in the case of SA, and it will work in Palestine.

    “This really isn’t true, but we’re not going to settle it here. The notion that the Israel Lobby is setting the general terms of American foreign policy in the Middle East is the most anti-materialist analysis I can imagine.”

    I base my analysis on emprical evidence, not on limiting analytical tools. The questions I posed earlier are not rhetorical. Materialist analysis can’t explain the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act, or Iraq post-’92. Surely, if oil is the chief materialist interest, there must be a good explanation why the US would turn down Iraq’s repeated offers for rapprochment, the industry’s demands for lifting of sanctions, Saddam Hussein’s 3 separate offers (in 2002-2003) for handing over control of its oil to the US in order to stave off war, or the Big Oil’s concerns about the threat to its long terms prospects in the region? Materialist analysis certainly doesn’t explain the al-Yamama arms deal. I can’t think of many materialist reasons why a country would forfeit a $70 billion contract for its leading industries just to avoid confrontation with a domestic pressure group.

    I find Marx’s 18th Brumaire a far better guide to foreign policy analysis than Das Kapital.

  14. m.idrees
    13 July, 2009

    In the end Naomi Klein sums it up best:

    “I don’t think it’s brave that I supported the BDS [boycott, divestment, and sanctions] call in 2008 when Gaza was being attacked and children were dying. The call was made in 2005. I’m ashamed that it took me this long. I’m not being humble when I say that I’m sorry. That it was nothing but cowardice, it was nothing but cowardice. But I ask all of you out there who are on the fence–”

    Her voice was drowned out by applause.

    As regards NF’s disingenuous position on the lobby, Philip Weiss has already addressed it here:

  15. Doug Tarnopol
    13 July, 2009

    Max: True, my comments were directed at Marcy only. As for his views, gee, I don’t know: NF gives them straight to any audience, white, brown, or whatever. I don’t see any racism in that.

    And if someone can’t recognize sarcasm when s/he sees it, well, not much can be said by this Great White Jew on that subject.

    On 1-state/2-state, surely if NF and NC can assume good intentions on the part of those who push 1-state, they can return the favor. Has nothing to do with the march, of course, as Muhammad pointed out, correctly. The Palestinians, as a unit, will decide what kind of political settlement they want. We will make our suggestions, but it’s not our call. I know this is obvious, but I’d rather focus on what the Palestinians want than on silly political games among lefties. I think the Ps would be ill-advised to push a 1-state solution now. I’m actually for a no-state solution, for all of us. I could be wrong on both counts. Meanwhile, I’m helping Norman today with the meeting rather than blogging about what my particular preference is on something over which I have no control. I figure an American Jew helping to break the siege of Gaza is a pretty good idea — ideologically and morally.

  16. max
    14 July, 2009

    Phil and you are both making two related mistakes, I think: assuming that top-level planners are rational, and assuming that they’re intelligent. I think if you discard those two assumptions, American policy makes somewhat more sense. I’m recalling a Chomsky anecdote when he and Schlesinger were testifying before the Church Committee, I think, and Schlesinger turned to him and said, the problem with your analysis is that you’re assuming policy-makers are intelligent.

    For your comment that you “base [your] analysis on empirical evidence, not on limiting analytical tools”; e.g. materialism, I don’t think I have to quote Marx at you to suggest that ideas, too, are part of materialist analysis.

    (The question of Iraqi oil presumes that the goal was to control oil in the specific way you prescribe; there are at least two other prima facie reasonable explanations, which are that the US wants to be able to use oil as a critical lever to control East Asia, for which it needs to have its hand on the spigot, or that the war was intended as a massive show of force and intimidation.) Another issue is that having its “hand on the spigot” may not really make much sense, anyway. This again could be true, without invalidating a materialist analysis, if you discard the assumption that American planners are intelligent.

    I do think that once one understands that the “Lobby’s” interests, once broadly construed, overlap with elite perceptions of their own interests, then much becomes clear; and it is where such things diverge that much becomes yet clearer, as in American refusal of permission to Israel to transfer military technology to China, or to give it the weaponry to more efficaciously bomb the crap out of Iran.

    but again, there’s little to be gained from re-hashing this conversation here.

    As for optimism about the march: of course I’m optimistic, in that I think it can work. If I thought it wouldn’t work, why would I bother to participate? That’d be bizarre.

  17. dshammas
    15 August, 2009

    I made the same comment in July and it seems enough people did too and they took it down. It appeared as the height of narcissism

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This entry was posted on 7 July, 2009 by in Activism, Gaza, Palestine, People power and tagged , .

Timely Reminders

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