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Contributions from Readers
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On the Road to Civil War

A Mexican Manifesto


On the Road to Civil War
Uri Avnery 23.10.04


     Everybody in Israel is talking about the Next War. The most popular TV channel is running a whole series about it.

     Not another war with the Arabs. Not the nuclear threat from Iran. Not the ongoing bloody confrontation with the Palestinians.

     The talk is about the coming civil war.

     Only a few months ago, that would have sounded preposterous. Now, suddenly, is has become a possibility, and a very real one. Not another blown-up media sensation. Not yet another of Sharon’s political manipulations. Not just a new blackmail attempt by the settlers. But the real thing on the ground.

     They talk about it at cabinet meetings and in the Knesset, on TV talk-shows, in editorials and the news pages. The Chief-of-Staff has publicly warned that the army may fall apart. One of the ministers says that the very existence of the State of Israel is in danger. Another minister prophesies a bloodbath like the Spanish civil war.

     Quietly and not so quietly, the Shin Bet is taking precautions. The prison service has been ordered to prepare facilities for mass detentions. The army leadership is planning the call-up of 10 thousand reserve soldiers and starting to think about the steps they must take in the case of…

     No, it’s a very real threat.

     On the face of it, it may seem to have appeared from nowhere. But whoever has eyes to see knew that it is going to happen, sooner or later.

     The seeds of the civil war were sown when the first settlement was put up in the occupied territories. At the time, I told the Prime Minister in the Knesset: “You are laying a land mine. Some day you will have to dismantle it. As a former soldier, let me warn you that the dismantling of land mines is a very unpleasant job.”

     Since then, hundreds of mines have been laid. The minefields are being extended even now.

     The process was led by religious cranks. Their declared aim, as they said then and never tire of repeating, is to drive all the Arabs out of the country that God promised us. And the land God promised us, as one of them reminded us on TV the other day, is not the “Palestine” of the British mandate, but the Promised Land - including Jordan, Lebanon and parts of Syria and Sinai. Quoting the Bible, another one declared that we have come to this country not only to inherit, but also to disinherit the others, to drive them out and take their place.

     Since the then Minister of Defence, Shimon Peres, implanted the first settlement, Kedumim, in the middle of the Palestinian population on the West Bank, the settlements have spread like locusts. Every settlement has gradually stolen the lands and water of the neighboring Palestinian villages, uprooted their trees, blocked their roads and built new roads, barred to Palestinians. Almost all the settlements have spawned satellite outposts on the nearby hills.

     This is continuing at this very moment. After Sharon solemnly promised President Bush to dismantle some of the “outposts”, dozens of new one have sprung up. All the ministries are actively helping the outposts that were officially defined as “illegal”. Not only is the army defending them, thereby putting its soldiers in harm’s way, but it is actually telling the “hill-boys” where to set up their outposts and secretly advising them how to go about it.

     When we warned of the danger, we were told to relax. Only a small minority of the settlers, we were comforted, are fanatical freaks. These are indeed crazy and will forcibly resist any attempt to remove them. But that will not be a big problem, because the vast majority of Israeli citizens detest them and consider them a sect of crackpots.

     Most of the settlers, we were told, are not fanatics. They went there because the government presented them with expensive villas, which they could not even dream about in Israel proper. They were looking for “quality of life”. When the government tells them to move, they will take the compensation and move on.

    That is, of course, a dangerous delusion. As Karl Marx observed, people’s consciousness is determined by their situation. The good Laborites who were implanted by the Labor government on the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip now talk and behave like the worst followers of the late fascist rabbi Meir Kahane.

     Moreover, we were told, even the weirdos recognize Israeli democracy. Nobody will raise his hands against soldiers of the Israeli army. When the government and the Knesset decide to evacuate settlements, they will obey. They may raise a ruckus and put up a show of resistance, as they did during the evacuation of the North Sinai settlements in 1982, but at the end of the day they will give in. After all, even in North Sinai not one single settler refused, in the end, to accept their compensation.

     But this disdain for the settlers is no less dangerous than the disdain for the Arabs. What had been hidden all the time is now becoming clear: the settlers don’t give a damn for democracy and the institutions of the state. Their hard core spells it out: when the resolutions of the Knesset contradict the Halakha (Jewish religious law), the Halakha has priority. After all, the Knesset is just a gang of corrupt politicians. And what value have the secular laws, copied from the Goyim (Gentiles), compared to the word of God, blessed be his name?

     Many settlers do not yet say so openly and pretend to be insulted when such attitudes are attributed to them, but in fact they are dragged along by the hard core that has already thrown off all the masks. They challenge not only the policy of the government, but Israeli democracy as such. They declare openly that their aim is to overthrow the State of Law and put in its place the State of the Halakha.

     A State of Law is subject to the will of the majority, which enacts the laws and amends them as necessary. The State of the Halakha is subject to the Torah, revealed once and for all on Mount Sinai and unchangeable. Only a very small number of eminent rabbis have the authority to interpret the Halakha. That is, of course, the opposite of democracy. In any other country, these people would be called fascists. The religious coloration makes no difference.

     The religious-rightist rebels are powerfully motivated. Many of them believe in the Kabbala – not Madonna’s fashionable Kabbala, but the real one, which says that today’s secular Jews are really Amalekites who succeeded in infiltrating the People of Israel at the time of the exodus from Egypt. God Himself has commanded, as everyone knows, the eradication of Amalek from the face of the earth. Can there be a more perfect ideological basis for civil war?

     Why has this become a threat at this point in time? It is not yet clear whether Sharon really intends to dismantle the few settlements in the Gaza Strip. But as the settlers see it, even the idea of removing one single settlement is a casus belli. It attacks everything that is holy to them. Sharon tried to convince them that it is only a ploy – to sacrifice a few small settlements in order to save all the others. In vain.

     In preparation for the Great Rebellion, the settlers have unveiled their potential. The most eminent rabbis of the “Religious Zionist movement” have declared that the evacuation of a settlement is a sin against God and have called upon the soldiers to refuse orders. Hundreds of rabbis, including the rabbis of the settlements and the rabbis of the religious units in the army have joined the call.

      The voice of the few opponents is being drowned out. They quote the Talmudic saying “the law of the kingdom is law”, meaning that every government has to be obeyed, much as Christians are required to render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, etc. But who listens to these “moderate rabbis” now?

     The conquest of the army from the inside began long ago. The “arrangement” with the yeshivot (religious schools), that serve in the army as separate units, has allowed the entry of a huge Trojan horse. In any confrontation between their rabbis and their army commanders, the soldiers of the “arrangement yeshivot” will obey the rabbis. Worse: for years now, the settlers have systematically penetrated the ranks of the officers’ corps, where they now constitute an even more dangerous Trojan horse.

     The right-wing refusal to obey orders is unlike the left-wing conscientious objection. The leftist refusal is a personal stand, the rightist refusal a collective mutiny. On the left, a few hundred refused to serve the occupation, on the right, many thousands, even tens of thousands, will obey their rabbis’ orders to refuse. As the Chief-of-Staff has warned, the army may disintegrate.

     Altogether, the settlers, together with their close allies in Israel including the yeshivot students, may amount to something like half a million people – a mighty phalanx for rebellion.

     As of now, the settlers are only using this threat as an instrument for blackmail and deterrence, in order to choke off any thought of evacuating settlements and territories. But if the blackmail does not do the job, the Great Rebellion is just a matter of time.



A Mexican Manifesto
(sent in by C. J. Stone)


1. Resisting is Creating


Contrary to the defensive position in which rebel and alternative groups and movements often find themselves, we believe true resistance must include the creation, here and now, of the ties and pioneering alternative forms of movements, groups and persons who, through an activism for life, overcome capitalism and reaction.


2. Resisting Sadness


We are living through a period that is profoundly marked by sadness. Not just the sadness of tears, but also, and above all, the sadness of impotence. The men and women of our time are living in the certainty that life's complexity is such that the only thing we can do, at the risk of making it worse, is to submit to the discipline of economics, self-interest and egoism. The social and individual sadness wears us down and convinces us that we no longer have the means of living a true life, and so we submit to the order and discipline of survival. The tyrant needs the sadness, because in that way each one of us is isolated in his own small, virtual and disturbing world. But, at the same time, men need the tyrant, in order to justify their sadness. We believe that thefirst step to be taken against sadness (the manner in which capitalism is present in our lives) is the creation of concrete ties of solidarity. Breaking the isolation, creating solidarity, is the beginning of a commitment, of an activism that no longer operates "against," but rather "for" life, happiness, through the liberation of potency.


3. Resistance is Multiplicity


The struggle against capitalism, implies practices of multiplicity. Capitalism has invented a single, one dimensional world, but that world does not, "in itself," exist. It requires our submission and our agreement in order to exist. That unified world - which is a world become merchandise - is opposed to the multiplicity of life. It is opposed to the infinite dimensions of desire, of imagination and of creation. It is opposed, fundamentally, to justice. That is why we believe that every struggle against capitalism that is trying to be global or all-encompassing remains trapped in the structure of capitalism itself, that is, globalism. Resistance should start from and develop multiplicities, through the creation of ties of solidarity and help.


5. Resisting is Not Desiring Power


One hundred and fifty years of revolutions have taught us that, contrary to the classic vision, the place of power, the centers of power, are, at the same time, centers of minimal power, or impotence. Power deals with management, so to speak. It is not, in itself, able to change the social structure from above, if the potency of the real ties in the base do not allow them to do so. That is why alternative resistance will be powerful as it abandons the trap of hope, that is, the classic political mechanism of deferring the moment of liberation­ invariably to a "manyana," to a later. The "liberating masters" are asking us for obedience today, in the name of a liberation we will see tomorrow, but ma~ana is always ma~ana. This is why we are proposing to the liberating masters (political commissars, bureaucratized leaders and other sad activists) liberation here and now, and obedience ma~ana.


6. Resisting the Serial


Power maintains and develops sadness, aided by the ideology of insecurity. Capitalism could not exist without serializing, without dividing, without separating. And separation triumphs when, little by little, people, towns, nations exist obsessed with insecurity. Nothing is easier to discipline than a town of sheep convinced that they are, each and every one of them, a wolf for the other. Insecurity and violence are real, but only insofar as we accept them. That is, that we accept this ideological illusion that makes us believe that we, each one of us, are individuals isolated from the rest. The sad man lives as if he had been flung onto a set: the others are extras. Nature, the world and animals are "useful," and each one of us is the central and sole protagonist of our lives.Then the individual is no longer a person, the individual is a fiction, a label. The person, on the other hand, is each one of us, but on the condition that we open our eyes to the reality of our belonging to this substantive everything that is the world. It is about rejecting the labels of profession, nationality, civil status, unemployed, employees, handicapped, etcetera. It is behind these labels that the power is trying to unify and standardize the multiplicity that each one of us is. But we are multiplicities, mixed with multiplicities.Alternative resistance involves giving a place to the reality of men, women, nature. Individuals find themselves like sad sedentary beings, trapped in their labels and roles. That is why the alternative involves assuming a libertarian nomadism.


7. Resisting Without Masters


The creation of a different life must involve, fundamentally, the creation of alternatives, of ways of life, of ways of desiring. If we desire what the master has, if we desire in the same way the master does, we will be condemned to repeat the famous revolutions, but, this time, in the physical meaning of the word "revolution," that is, a full circle to a same point. It is then about inventing and creating new practices and images of happiness, in the concrete.If we think that one can only be happy in the individualist way of the master, and we ask for a revolution that satisfies us, we will be eternally condemned to changing masters. A communism must be created, not out of necessity, but out of the pleasure brought by solidarity. It should not be shared in the sad way, that is, because we are obligated. The pleasure of a fuller, more free life must be discovered. In the society of separation, of atomization, that is, in capitalist society, men and women do not find what they desire: they must be content with desiring what they find. Separation is separation, of one from the other, as well as of each of us from the world, of the worker from his product, but, at the same time, each one of us from us, separated, exiled from our very selves. It is the structure of sadness.


9. Resistance and Counterculture


To resist is to create and to develop counterpower and counterculture.Artistic creation is not a luxury of man, it is a vital necessity, of which the great majority find themselves deprived. In the society of sadness, art was separated from life, what's more, art is increasingly more separated from art itself, because it is possessed, made rotten, by mercantile values. That is why artists understand ­ perhaps better than many ­ that resisting is creating. We are also directing ourselves to them, so that creation might overcome sadness, that is, separation, so that creation might free itself from the trap of money and recover its place in the heart of life.


10. Resisting Separation


Resisting is, at the same time, overcoming the capitalist separation between theory and practice, between the engineer and the worker, between the head and the body. A theory that is separated from practice is transformed into a sterile idea. That is why there are a myriad sterile ideas in our universities.


11. Resisting Normalization


Resisting means, at the same time, deconstructing the falsely democratic talk that attempts to deal with the excluded sectors and people. The "excluded" do not exist in our societies. In our societies, we are all included in different ways, in ways which are more or less degrading and terrible, but included. Exclusion is not an accident, it is not an excess. What they call exclusion and insecurity is what we should see as the very essence of this society which loves death. This is why fighting against labels implies our desire to make contact with the struggles of the so-called "abnormals" or handicapped. Different persons and ways of being exist. Labels act as mini-concentration camps, where each one of us is defined by a given level of impotence. What interests us is potency, liberty. A handicapped person exists only in a society which accepts the difference between the strong and the weak. If we reject this, which is barbarism, we will not be able to retain the classification, the selection, of capitalism. That is why the alternative implies a world where each one of us assumes his or her fragility, and where each one of us develops what he can, with others and for life. We know, for example, the incredible richness of the deaf culture, created once men and women of courage learned how to break out of the prison of medical taxonomy. Similarly, the struggle against the psychiatrization of society, and so many other struggles which, far from being small struggles for a bit more space, are real creations which enrich life. For that, we are also inviting groups in struggle against the medical-social normalization discipline to resist with us.


12. Resisting Retreat


Resisting is also rejecting the temptation of a retreat to identity, which separates nationals from foreigners. Immigration, the migratory flows, are not a problem. They have been a profound reality of humanity forever, and will be so forever. It is not about being philanthropically good to foreigners. It is about desiring the richness that mestizaje produces. Resisting is creating ties among those "without" ­ without homes, without work, without papers, those without dignity, those without land, all those without who do not have the "right skin color," the right sexual practices, etcetera. A union of those without, a fraternity of those without, not in order to be "with," but in order to build societies where those without and those with no longer exist.


13. Resisting Ignorance


Our societies, which purport to being scientific cultures are, in reality ­ from an historical and anthropological perspective ­ the societies which have produced the highest level of ignorance that the human odyssey has known. If all societies have technicians, our society is the first to be actually possessed by technology. Ninety percent of our contemporaries are incapable of knowing what happens between the moment they push the buttons and the moment in which the desired effect is produced. Ninety percent of our contemporaries know nothing about almost all the means and mechanics of the world in which they live. Thus our culture produces ignorant men and women, who, feeling exiled from their environment, are able to simply destroy it. The violence of this exile is such that humanity, for the first time, finds itself facing the real and concrete ­ perhaps inevitable ­ possibility of its destruction. They tell us that, given the complexity of technology, men should accept it without understanding it. The ecological disaster, however, demonstrates that those who believe they understand technology are far from managing it. It is urgent that collectives, groups, socialization forums of knowledge, be created, so that men can once more have their feet in the real world. Nowadays, genetic technology is putting us on the edge of a selection among human beings according to criteria of productivity and profit. Eugenics, in the name of the good, dehumanizes humanity. They tell us, from the screens that order our lives, that we can already proceed to cloning a human being, and our sad, disoriented humanity does not know what a human being is. These are deeply political questions which should not be left in the hands of technicians. The public man should not turn into the technical man.


14. Resistance is Constant


Resisting is affirming that, contrary to what we might believe, liberty will never be a point of arrival. Hope, paradoxically, plunges us in sadness. Liberty and justice exist only in the here and now, in and through the paths which build them. There is no good master or utopia fulfilled. Utopia is the political name of the very essence of life, that is, constant evolution. This is why the objective of resistance will never be power. Power and the powerful are themselves condemned to not being able to distance themselves too far from what a people desire. That is why it is always a slave mentality to believe that the power decides what is real in our lives. That is why the sad man ­ we would say ­ needs the tyrant. It is not enough to ask those men who hold power to dictate such and such a law, separate from the practices of the social base. We cannot, for example, ask a government to dictate laws of solidarity with foreigners if we do not built this solidarity in the social base. Law and the power, if they are democratic, should reflect the state of the real life of society. That is why our problem is not whether the power is corrupt and arbitrary. Our problem and our challenge is the society that this power reflects. Our task, as free men and women, is to see that ties of solidarity exist, of liberty and friendship, which truly prevent the power from being reactionary. There is no liberty other than the practice of liberation.


15. The Alternative is Struggle


One cannot truly be anti-capitalist and accept, at the same time, the images of happiness and fulfillment which the system itself generates. If one desires to be like the master, to have what the master has, one is in the position of being a slave. The path of liberty is incompatible with the master's desire. It is exactly from the resistance that other images of happiness and liberty arise, alternative images, tied to creation and communism.


16. Worker Resistance


Resistance and the creation of new societies demands that we look at the same time at the question of the so-called revolutionary subject, that is, the working class, messianic character within modern historicism. Contrary to what postmodern sociologists say about complexity, the working class is not disappearing. The workers' function has simply been displaced and arranged geographically. Thus, if there are numerically fewer workers in the central countries, production has been displaced to the so-called peripheral countries, where the brutal exploitation of men, women and children guarantees enormous profits to capitalist companies. And so, in the central countries, through evoking insecurity and fear, they propose national alliances to the popular classes, in order to better exploit the third world. We are saying that capitalist production is a dispersed, unequal and combined production. That is why the struggle, the resistance, must be multiple, but, at the same time, one of solidarity. Individual or group liberation does not exist. Liberty is conjured only in universal terms, or, said in another way, my liberty does not end where another's begins. My liberty, rather, does not exist without the other's. We think that, if a revolutionary subject does not exist, multiple revolutionary subjects, of all sorts, do exist. These days we are seeing the flourishing of coordinadoras, collectives and workers groups, inundating group struggles with their demands. These struggles must, in each singularity and in each specific situation, transcend the master's labels, that is, they must reject the separation between the employed and unemployed, between nationals and foreigners. Not because the employed person, the national, the man, the white, is being charitable with the unemployed, the foreigner, the woman, the handicapped, the minor, but because every struggle which accepts and reproduces these differences ­ it must be said clearly and once and for all ­ is a struggle, however violent it might be, that respects and reinforces capitalism.


18. Resisting is Constructing Practices


Resisting is not, then, having opinions. In our world, contrary to what is believed, there is not a "single way of thinking." There are innumerable different ideas. What happens is that different opinions do not imply really alternative practices. Those opinions, therefore, are only opinions ruled by the single way of thinking, or by the single practice. This mechanism of sadness, which makes us have different opinions and single practices, must be stopped. Breaking with the world of the spectacle means no longer being spectators of our own lives, spectators of the world. Attacking the virtual world ­ this world that needs to discipline us, to serialize us, that needs each and every one of us to be in front of the television at the same hour in order to inform us ­ is not, then, saying how the world, the economy, education, should be, in an abstract way. Resisting is building millions of practices, of resistance groups that will not allow themselves to be trapped by what the virtual world calls "seriousness." To be truly serious is not to think globally and confirm our impotence. To be serious involves building, here and now, the networks and ties of resistance that will free life from this world of death. Sadness is profoundly reactionary. It is understandable, but it is still reactionary. Sadness makes us impotent. Liberation is, ultimately, also liberation from the political commissars, in short, from all these bitter and sad liberating masters. That is why resisting is also this invitation to create networks that will take us out of isolation. The power wants us isolated and sad. We know how to be happy and in solidarity. It is in this sense that we do not recognize activism as an individual choice. We all have a particular level of commitment. Activists and independents do not exist. We are all tied together. The question is in knowing, on the one hand, what degree of commitment one has, and, on the other, what side of the struggle one is committed to.

Fraternal greetings to all the BROTHERS OF THE COAST* Internet Contact. "Brothers of the coast": greetings to pirates. Unlike the corsairs, traders, slave traders and mercantilists of the seas, the pirates were communists, and they created free communities.

El Mate (Argentina) Mothers Association of the Plaza de Mayo (Argentina) Amauta Collective (Peru) Malgre' Tout (Paris, France) Che Collective (Toulon, France) Collective Against Expulsions (Liege, Belgium) Social Center (Brussels, Belgium)

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