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The Neo-Barbarians

Friday 27 October 2006, by Michel WARSHAVSKY

From an ethical point of view, history never stands in the same place: if it doesn’t move towards less oppression and more justice, it moves towards less rights and more barbarism. Paraphrasing the German revolutionary socialist Rosa Luxemburg, who predicted twenty years before the rise of Nazism, “either socialism or barbarism,” we can say today that the 21st century will be “either the rule of Right or the law of the jungle.” It seems, however, that in the first decade of the third millennium, the law of jungle is taking the lead.

In an article published one month ago in Haaretz, Israeli journalist and analyst Tom Segev tried to challenge the common idea that the global political context of our time is much worse than it used to be, let’s say, two decades ago. According to Segev, war, oppression and destruction have characterized the political reality of our planet during the last five decades, and nothing has changed either qualitatively or even quantitatively in the recent past. Segev goes further yet, claiming that the “clash of civilizations” is not a new phenomenon, but has been characteristic of the previous decades, though under different labels.

There can be no doubt that the four decades following WWII were not peaceful, and during this period more than 76 million human beings perished, in wars, revolutions and through mass-repression by dictatorships.* It is also true that during the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s, the “north” conducted a colonial war against the “South,” and the “West” a “civilization war” against the eastern communist bloc.

There is, nevertheless, a qualitative difference between the present situation and the forty years that followed the victory over fascism. Three main factors limited the hegemonic aspirations of the USA following WWII:

The existence of the Soviet superpower;

The strength of an organized working class in the imperialist countries;

The effects of the memory of the horrors of fascism on international public opinion, and the perceived illegitimacy of unilateralism, military aggression, etc.

Due to these factors, the big powers were obliged to maneuver under the pressure of huge political opposition (anti-colonial movements, mass democratic oppositions) and constantly needed to invent pretexts with which to provide legitimacy for their wars and acts of repression throughout the world.

However, 50 years after the victory over fascism, these constraints no longer bind the big imperialist powers—the US in particular. Unilateralism, “preemptive” wars, colonial ventures, etc., are once again legitimate, or, more precisely, no longer challenged in a way that could seriously harm their perpetrators. With the absence of a powerful opposition, the new neoconservative leadership of the Empire has been able to create a new “global discourse,” which, at least partially, has been able to conquer the minds of substantial parts of those who are the victims of the Empire. The four main elements of this discourse are:

The collapse of Soviet Union is the ultimate evidence that capitalism is the only viable way;

(Western) civilization is threatened by a new global enemy: terrorism;

A global-permanent-preemptive war is necessary to protect civilization against the new Barbarians (terrorism/Islam) and their allies;

In this war for the survival of civilization, there cannot, and should not, be any constraints: all the norms and conventions of the past fifty years are caduc.

And, indeed, in their crusade for what they call “the New American Century,” i.e. the imposition by force of the total hegemony of their empire under the shallow pretext of a “war against terrorism,” the US administration has declared a lack of relevance to every moral constraint and international regulation,

Already in 2003, George W. Bush announced that the Geneva Conventions are obsolete in the war against terrorism. Guantanamo was opened in violation not only of international law, but also of the law of the United States of America. In order to deprive suspected terrorists of any kind of protection or rights, the same administration decided to invent a new category of detainees: neither criminal nor prisoners of war, but “suspected terrorists.”

The similarity between the US and Israeli practices is astonishing: already in the 1970s, the Israeli military authorities announced, in the Israeli Supreme Court, as well as in international conferences, that, in the case of the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT), the Geneva Conventions do not apply. Moreover, since the late 1960s, Palestinian political prisoners have been categorized as neither criminal prisoners nor political detainees; and the “secret prison” discovered by Attorney Lea Tsemel, near kibbutz Ma’anit, in 2003, is a twin-brother of Guantanamo.

In addition, according to both the US neoconservative leadership and the Israeli government, the aim of wars is no longer to win a battle, to conquer a territory or to change a regime, but to destroy states and to dismantle whole societies.

The state of Israel—but also the great majority within Israeli society—have fully internalized this neoconservative analysis and the strategy which logically follows. In fact, in the last decade, Israel-Palestine has been the laboratory for such a strategy, and the Palestinians its guinea pigs. This is the case, even on the level of armament, as the leftwing Italian newspaper El Manifesto has recently confirmed, unmasking the utilization of one of the new and most barbarian type of bombs manufactured in the US and used in the last offensive against the civilian population of Gaza.

The Israeli war against the Palestinians is clearly aimed at destroying Palestinian society and transforming the Palestinians from a nation into scattered tribes, as the Americans are trying to do in Afghanistan and in Iraq.

Indeed, all wars are barbaric, but the Israeli war in the OPT (and its broader context, the endless preemptive war against terrorism) represents a new stage in modern barbarism. Though the definition of “genocide” is wrong, one can adopt Bir Zeit University Professor Salah Abdel Jawad’s from definition of “sociocide,” or Israeli sociologists’ concept of “politicide.”

The land on which the Palestinian nation is rooted is being stolen by “legal settlements” and “illegal outposts,” provoking more and more “self-transfer”; the Wall is atomizing Palestinian society into isolated cantons; new laws and regulations are aimed at limiting the entry of Palestinians into the Palestinian territory, as well as their capacity to move within their own territory; the democratically elected representatives of the Jerusalem population have been expelled from their city, and dozens of ministers and legislative council members kidnapped and jailed, as hostages for an eventual exchange of prisoners.

On top of all these evils are the horrors of Hebron, where the local population is subjected to daily harassment by the settlers and the Israeli military, and denied normal access to a substantial part of their city, and the martyrdom of Gaza, which has been the target of an economic blockade and systematic Israeli bombardments, destroying the basic infrastructure and slaughtering hundreds.

Needless to say that all these crimes, some of which have been described as crimes against humanity by Human Rights Watch, are not provoking any sanctions, or even protest by the so-called international community. Impunity to the barbarians is the new norm, from Iraq to Gaza. As for the Israeli “peace camp,” it entered into a deep coma the day Ehud Barak returned from Camp David, swallowing the big lie about the “existential danger” threatening Israel with a certain amount of emotional release.

The similarity between the strategy and methods of Israel and those of the US, raises the question of who is the dog and who is the tail, or, in other words, who is moving whom: is the Israeli lobby pushing the US administration according to the needs of the Zionist State, or the US administration pushing Israel to implement its global war policy in the Middle East?

In reality, this is a wrong question: there is neither a dog nor a tail, but one global war of re-colonization, and one aggressive monster with two ugly heads. Neoconservative strategies were elaborated jointly by US and Israeli politicians and thinkers, and implemented simultaneously, though one cannot deny that Israel had the opportunity to test this strategy and these methods before the USA, Israeli neocons having won the elections four years before their American counterparts.

The US and Israel—but also Blair’s Great Britain, Italy of Berlusconi and even Romano Prodi, and increasingly other western countries—are conducting a world-war against the peoples of the planet, with an unhidden agenda: to impose, by violence and/or threat, the rule of the Neoliberal Empire. This global war is a crusade of the Neo-Barbarians against human civilization.

The role of Israel in this partnership is to eradicate all forms of resistance to the Empire in the Middle East, and first of all the emblematic Palestinian resistance, which, at this moment in history, is a line of defense not only for the Palestinian people, but for all the peoples and nations of the Middle East, from Lebanon to Iran. This is why support for the Palestinian resistance needs to be understood as a strategic priority for all the enemies of Barbarism, in the Middle East as well as in the rest of the world.