48 Things You Can Do for 48
By Shimrit Baer
One of my favorite things is receiving Mazin Qumsiyeh’s “Human Rights Newsletters”, which combine news roundups with something poetic and inspiring too. He also often ends his letters with a list of suggestions for how to help (http://qumsiyeh.org/whatyoucando/ ). I will take up #25 and submit my own suggestions, as from a counter-Zionist Jewish Palestinian Israeli citizen vantage point within what some call the “internationally recognized borders of Israel”, or what is more aptly called the “48 areas”.
While for obvious reasons most activism focuses its energies on the West Bank and Gaza, it is the 48 areas – their suburban ethnic purity, their total residential segregation, and their social engineering -- that constitutes the sacred core of the social structure of which the 1967 occupation is a manifestation, a natural development, and a protective shell.
I often think that the best thing the Zionist classes in Israel have going for them is that by and large the non-Zionist classes have no intention of breaking down segregated space inside the 48 areas, maybe because we think we want segregation too. Maybe we do – but let us be conscious of that choice and own its consequences, then. The fact is that the Zionist classes are expending unthinkable resources globally, just to maintain an aura of reliability and inevitability around their arrangement of space in the 48 areas. For the sake of argument, let’s assume that the non-Zionist classes (which I’ll define in a moment) indeed organized to disturb “Zionist Space,” the unit of measurement from which the Zionist State is derived: what forms could such disturbance feasibly take? And what would the Zionist classes then do to defend purity of space against the visible presence of the wrong type of citizens in Zionist Space? What are the subversive possibilities and limitations of the spatial act?
Navigating Zionist Space every day you can’t but feel the awesome imperviousness and solidity of it all. Yet if you break it down, you end up with an extremely unsophisticated and crude, and hence vulnerable, imposition of separate cities, separate living room, and separate education. The structure, so it seems, would not be able to bend and hold under strain of pressure, as would for example the far more crafty kinds of segregation that are imposed elsewhere through more roundabout post-civil rights policies.
So if Qumsiyeh started a list with “67 Ways to act for peace with justice” in the occupied areas, I’d remix: “48 ways to act in/for 48,” or something of the kind. And the first item on that impossibly finite list: Try to desire to act. Turns out, it is far from an obvious given that counter-Zionists inside the 48 areas desire to act. Everyone acts through resilience or resistance, via small everyday tactics of defiance and subterfuge or by overt practices of resistance. By ‘act’, though, I mean acting in an organized and conscious way. Because of its violently held monopoly of all public institutions, the Zionist caste-class has succeeded very well in confounding the non-Zionist classes’ ability to act in an organized way inside 48. The first thing must be a desire for the non-Zionist quasi-class to act as such.
A class analysis in conjunction with race-ethnicity readings of Zionism as a structure is based on the premise is that there is, and has always been, a non-Zionist quasi-class in the 48 areas comprising: (1) a caste of people who, by birth, are rendered permanently excluded from the ownership of the means of production of public institutions; (2) individuals born within the Zionist quasi-class but have who have dislodged themselves from it to the extent of assimilation of counter-Zionist interests, of which economic reform and hence spatial reform constitute collective interests. With its institutions centered and run from within the 48 areas, Zionism exists as a quasi-class that owns the means of institutional production– including owning all the economic, military, educational and cultural means with which to reproduce itself, at the expense of the Palestinian castes and the non-Zionist quasi-classes. One is again and again confronted with an argument for the creation of a counter-Zionist union here on the ground, an organized space that is democratically structured, rule-bound (to protect the weak), sufficient to itself, and capable of producing and circulating ideas.
It seems that lately the byword in 48 is to act locally. There’s some logic to local actions when faced with the totalizing effect of the occupier’s global reach. In Israeli-Jewish counter-Zionist circles, the call to think locally might have something to do with the fact that the activist base is extremely small, as one of my BDS colleagues has recently argued: “To challenge…Israeli passivity…Israeli activists could focus on direct solidarity actions in the occupied Palestinian territories…even a small number of Israeli citizens can make a real difference in the lives of Palestinians … and embarrass the Israeli government.” (http://mondoweiss.net/2017/04/weakness-movement-jerusalem/). This reinforces the idea that Jewish 48ers have to go to the West Bank, in order to act in local issue-oriented ways. One would wonder why helping others stay in place should be more important than combating segregation at one’s doorstep, and one should also wonder why mobilizing against Zionism itself is seen as too divisive or too futile for 48 activism. You could concede that from a certain perspective, mobilizing around local issues and sticking thorns in the sides of the government is a logical way of proceeding. There’s also freedom, one supposes, in being a local player, with no need to recognize an elected hierarchy or feel bound by a broader consensus. But democratic organization is a selfless business; it exists to nurture a unity of diverse civil resistance forms on the ground.
As it is, there are many independent small scale groups mobilizing within 48, working in niches, rarely under the express name of counter-Zionism. BDS from Within, for example, has two unique, almost non-interactive, bodies of the same name operating within the 48 areas, neatly divided by language, space, and knowledges. Those who defend that state of organizational chaos say that it’s a good thing to have different and complementary activist bases, but the fact is that they are not strategizing together nearly enough. Whatever one might say, strategic debates within 48 also remain heavily determined by race and class markers, a fault aggravated by the lack of coordination and the absence of a mutual effort to connect the bases together and to broaden them. Anything done in the way of explicit counter-Zionist organization would thus be a positive good.
As soon as openly counter-Zionist groups have emerged, they have been rendered illegal and disbanded by the Zionist class, which of course has a monopolistic hold over all legislative and executive state institutions, as well as cultural ones. Yet it is wrong to view as impossible a union under the open banner of counter-Zionism. Correctly seen, it is an organizational challenge.
Attention must turn inwards. Whoever you are, what’s your true and honest relationships to Zionist Space?
To go back: the Zionist quasi-classes don’t want to lose their monopoly. That is what they’re scared of, and it is patently absurd to think that there is anything that can alleviate that quasi-class’s collective anxiety except the eventual outcome of loss – together with a new, better, safer and more just power structure.
It’s a self-evident interest of the non-Zionist quasi-class/caste conglomeration to want to seize the means of institutional production. There is disagreement about the specifics of form and content of that struggle, but once one accepts as social fact that it is the inherent and inevitable interest of the non-Zionist quasi-class to eliminate exclusive ethno-national ownership of social institutions and, specifically, of space, the political question will yield back answers on the ground that are not overly dependent on any faraway, theoretical ‘solution’, world events, or academic discussions.
We return again to the base problem that counter-Zionists are not of necessity politically conscious or conscientious. They just exist -- an unwanted force within a structure that is deeply compartmentalized and that accords them different opportunities, rights and knowledge.
Energies must at some point turn spatially. Especially now that the so-called genie of an apartheid analysis has been let out of even a UN bottle, one would urge the very materialist view and say that a society dependent on a system of segregation unto apartheid is not conceptually capable of understanding racism. First and foremost is a need to change space itself.
Indeed, as far as I can tell, the non-Zionist class struggling within and against the Zionist power structure has two main material (as opposed to more discursive or symbolic) routes, one directly institutional (i.e., by somehow regaining ownership of institutions and the economy) and the other indirect and spatial. The first option is less immediately operable given the global power of the Zionist class system. But what can we do with the spatial option at home that we are left with?
One way to begin is to form groups in one’s own area to strategize ways to disrupt “Zionist space”. For, logically, there must surely exist some ways in which an organized movement would be able to act to free itself of the “Zionist Space” noose – making disruptive moves spatially, materially, legally, culturally or discursively.
Institutions at the hands of the Zionist class are specifically designed for drying out all the non-Zionist institutions, through policies of disrepair, dilapidation, delegitimation, fear, and artificial distance. Yet, they’re constrained in their impossible-to-countenance calculus of pure Zionist Space.
Meanwhile, it is the non-Zionist class that can challenge innermost boundaries that have no moral or even real conceptual or institutional protection. In that, just like anything, resistance is constant innovation. There’s no one direction to go in– the main idea is to take back one’s space.
From here on in, I can only defer to Qumsiyeh’s list. Support for the 48 areas is also support for political prisoners and those being persecuted for their counter-Zionist ideas. It is also a support for Al Quds, and its forgotten residents living under an apartheid “United Jerusalem”, over 80% of whom are living under the poverty line. It’s support for peoples to stay in place, even while it’s support for counteracting the reliability and stability of “place”. It’s a total challenge to the idea of Zionist-Only Space, including gated communities, kibbutzim, and housing projects with Zionist admissions committees. It’s support for the spatial struggles of oppressed and segregated peoples everywhere. This includes struggles for reparations for slavery and for racial injustices in the United States. Segregation and power are interlinked globally.
The success of counter-zionist organizing within the 48 areas is crucial for the outcome everywhere. The needs of the peoples in these areas include the need to act, a need not entirely addressed by BDS. While BDS strategies of nonviolence are growing internationally, the same strategies aren’t necessarily tailored for resistance groups within 48, not because these are dangerous and costly (as all resistance within is), but rather because there has to be a way for the ordinary person on the street to be involved in them.