The suicide of a nation and the extermination of a people

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By VLADIMIR SAFATLE*

Hamas will not be destroyed because it has a partner who needs it to survive, and that partner is Benjamin Netanyahu

There is a film by Luis Buñuel called the exterminating angel. In it, we see a group of bourgeois people who go to a kind of reception hall and simply can't leave. There is no physical impediment, no restriction, other than that coming from your own will. When they try to leave they suddenly stop, lose willpower and remain paralyzed. Their impotence leads to despair, scenes of violence and degradation appear, until, just as it was natural for them to enter the room, they leave.

There is a fundamental symptom in the global geopolitical order. This is the Palestinian conflict. It's like Buñuel's film: in front of him everyone stops and prefers to do nothing, until something terrible explodes, like the attacks carried out by Hamas last week, and actions follow that have, deep down, only one objective, namely, continue to do nothing real, continue not to try to open any way to resolve the conflict. The reaction consists only of mobilizing aircraft carriers, the army, speeches of force, humanitarian catastrophes to hide the elementary fact: the international community is not willing to solve any problem in Palestine.

Let's do an elementary projection exercise. What will happen after the so-called Israeli “military actions” in Gaza? Will Hamas be destroyed? But what exactly does “destruction” mean here? On the contrary, isn't that exactly how Hamas grew, namely, after unacceptable actions of collective punishment and international indifference? And even if Hamas leaders are killed, won't other groups fueled by the increasingly brutal spiral of violence appear?

It would be important to start from the historical fact that all attempts to militarily annihilate Hamas only increased its strength, as such military actions created the ideal narrative framework for it to appear, in the eyes of a large part of the Palestinians, as a legitimate representative of the resistance to the occupation. . In other words, there is only one way to defeat Hamas and that way does not involve military victory, whatever that may mean.

Allow me to clearly state what I think and what I have been writing for almost twenty years in the national press: Hamas will not be destroyed because it has a partner who needs it to survive, and that partner is Benjamin Netanyahu. The actions taken by Benjamin Netanyahu and his far-right government, with the approval of international powers, have only one possible effect: to strengthen the feelings that fuel Hamas. A little common sense and historical analysis of the conflict would quickly lead us to this conclusion. The solution lies elsewhere.

And, well, here someone writes (and this is easy to check on the internet) who has never stopped criticizing Hamas and its project. I have no illusions about what the interests of religious fundamentalist groups are. I have said more than once that the Palestinians have two problems to solve: one is the colonial policy of the State of Israel, the other is Hamas. I keep thinking the same. But, as in Buñuel's film, the solution defected from the will of those who could resolve the conflict, namely the international community with its pressure system.

An extremely complex problem?

For years we were massacred with the eternal idea that this was an “extremely complex” conflict or that its causes should be sought in some kind of “millennial hatred between Semitic peoples” and the like. However, there is nothing complex about the Palestinian conflict. International law, represented by the UN (by the way, the same institution that created the State of Israel), recognizes Palestine's legal status as “occupied territory”, an occupation considered completely illegal by resolutions 242 and 338 more than fifty years ago. years.

In other words, Israel must respect international law and return the occupied territories. As if that were not enough, there are the Oslo Accords, which define a clear path to peace and conflict resolution. Israel must respect such international agreements, which has not happened so far. In fact, the current Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has never hidden his refusal to accept it.

However, the Palestinians have effectively engaged in this path. For decades, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) carried out direct actions, including attacks on civilians, and maintained a discourse clearly opposed to the partition that would create two states in historic Palestine. And yet, more than 30 years ago, the PLO gave up armed action, showing the Palestinians' willingness to a negotiated solution to the conflict. This point must be understood: the Palestinians who engaged in a peaceful negotiation process were betrayed. If the Oslo Accords were respected, there would be no Hamas. Any solution would begin by showing the Palestinians that the diplomatic route can bring effective results.

And here it would be important to recover the real reason why this peace process failed. It failed because Israel's then-prime minister, Itzak Rabin, was assassinated, not by a member of Hamas, not by a Palestinian, but by a Jewish settler. While Itzak Rabin and the then leader of the PLO, Yasser Arafat, tried to put the plan into practice, settlers confronted the Israeli army in settlement eviction processes, ultra-conservative rabbis made incendiary speeches against the government and we saw advertising campaigns carried out by Jewish organizations on television. fundamentalists who called on the Jews of the world, with weapons in hand, to prevent the handing over of land to the Palestinians. The end of this process was the murder of Itzak Rabin.

The peace process has since ended. Because there was a problem that was difficult to solve, this was an extremely complex problem. There is a greater ambiguity at the heart of the Israeli conception of the nation. On the one hand, it is based on the creation of a modern and secular State where there would be space even for Arabs (although in controlled numbers).

But, on the other hand, the Israeli conception of nation is haunted by religious and communitarian ghosts within which a redemptive messianism mixes dangerously with the attempt to create organic links between nation, State and people. The result is the glaring paradox of a State that claims to be modern and has a Byzantine Ministry of Religious Affairs, with its rabbinical courts, its Department of ritual baths and its Division of burial matters. In fact, a specter haunts the State of Israel: the theological-political specter.

On Israel's side, it became clear that the advancement of the peace process would only be possible through a confrontation with this theological-political nucleus that had always served as food for part of its imagination as a nation. However, this would simply be the death of the Israeli right with its undisguised communitarianism and religious parties. For her, continuing the peace process would lead the country to a civil war. It was then a question of postponing the peace process ad infinitum. And the best way to do this was to fuel the popularity of an Islamic fundamentalist group. This is how the Israeli right and Hamas grew together after the end of Itzak Rabin's government. One needs the other to exist.

Therefore, there is no other way to describe what Benjamin Netanyahu's government is doing now other than as a suicide experiment. Because he believes that the only thing capable of unifying the country is war. But to work, this war must be infinite, without end, creating a permanent exceptional situation. A fractured society like Israel finds in war a forced point of unity. Through permanent war, every protesting voice is constrained, harsh criticism of the apartheid in fact, the typically colonial policy of the Israeli state towards the Palestinians is associated, dishonestly, with anti-Semitism. This does not mean ignoring expressions of real anti-Semitism that appear in war situations and that must be combatted.

I would insist that we are facing a suicide experiment because wars of this nature cannot be won, they only serve to militarize society in all its pores (as Israeli sociologist Eva Illouz precisely denounced in the case of her society), destroying its substantiality . The only possibility of truly winning the war would be through the pure, simple and unthinkable de facto extermination of the Palestinians. Because they will simply never accept being treated as a non-existent people or one that must be completely moved east of the Jordan River.

Trying to go further along this path will mean putting the entire world at risk, bringing the populations of Arab countries to a boil, with a general increase in global insecurity. There is a typical colonial illusion that is once again being updated here. Earth and freedom are completely combined elements. The people know that there is no autonomy without autochthony. There is no human community that passively accepts its own exile.

It can be said that the Palestinian conflict is more complex than a classic colonial situation, because there is a dispute over who has the right to autochthony. However, international law, once again worth remembering, is clear: the autochthony of Palestinians in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem has no possibility of being challenged and the international community has an obligation to defend it. it and press for its immediate implementation.

However, I am not unaware of the fact that the world is heading towards a situation in which it can only be governed through the generalization of crisis situations. A true desire to resolve the conflict would involve UN intervention and the use of international military force as a mediating element, but the Security Council is not even capable of approving a joint statement. The Brazilian government's attempt was commendable, although it only served to show the de facto end of the UN. Since the US invasion of Iraq, carried out without a UN agreement, the only institution capable of mediating war conflicts has ceased to exist.

Increasingly, we enter the era of fear as a central political affect. States seek, in fact, to perpetuate the so-called terrorist threats as a way of consolidating a policy of continuous surveillance, extensive police intervention and blocking effective challenges. This is a global phenomenon of change in government paradigm that has been systematically denounced for at least two decades by all sides. With this conflict and its consequences, it could be further deepened.

*Vladimir Safatle He is a professor of philosophy at USP. Author, among other books, of Ways of transforming worlds: Lacan, politics and emancipation (Authentic). https://amzn.to/3r7Nhlo

Originally published on the magazine's website Cult.


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