Israel: David Ben-Gurion

Oso Sabio:

This kind of extremism has real influence over Israeli politics…

Originally posted on WORDVIRUS:

ben-gurion-photo-2

“If I were an Arab leader, I would never sign an agreement with Israel. It is normal; we have taken their country. ” –  David Ben-Gurion (Polish born Israeli Statesman and Prime Minister (1948-53, 1955-63).
“We must use terror, assassination, intimidation, land confiscation, and the cutting of all social services to rid the Galilee of its Arab population.” – David Ben-Gurion, a.k.a. David Grün (1886-1973), Israeli Prime Minister (1948-53, 1955-63) revered by Israelis as “Father of the Nation”

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Stand with Palestinian workers in Gaza: a call for trade union solidarity

Oso Sabio:

Solidarity

Originally posted on bayareaintifada:

via BDSMovement.net

The Palestinian trade union movement, with support from with support from the Congress of South African Trade Unions and its affiliates, is unanimously calling on trade unions internationally to take immediate action to stop the Israeli massacre in Gaza and hold Israel to account for its crimes against the Palestinian people.

In the two weeks of the latest Israeli military aggression in the Gaza strip, whole families have been wiped out, and over 600 Palestinians have been killed, almost 80% of them civilians and a third of them children. Over 1.8 million Palestinians are trapped in an occupied and besieged small piece of land that Israel has turned into an open-air prison, subject to daily bombardment by Israeli rockets and heavy artillery. For seven years, Palestinians in Gaza have been under a brutal and illegal siege whose purpose is to destroy the conditions of life and break the…

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The Need for Empathy in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

During Israel’s recent invasion of Gaza, over one thousand Palestinians have died, and the UN says three quarters of the dead have been civilians. UNICEF, meanwhile, affirms that at least 30 percent have been children. The Israeli State claims that blame for civilian deaths lays with Hamas, because the group ‘fires from residential neighbourhoods’ and ‘uses civilians as human shields’. [1] Realistically, however, the reason for so many civilian casualties in Palestine is that “an incredibly powerful air force is bombing the hell out of one of the most crowded, vulnerable places in the world”. [2] The fault, therefore, according to Larry Derfner at +972, “lies with Israel, whose punitive, often lethal blockade of Gaza, together with its military occupation of the West Bank, invites Palestinians to fight back”. Israel, he says, “is the aggressor… as in all its wars… since 1967”.

 

Derfner affirms that “the problem – in Gaza and the West Bank, now and before – is that the IDF is a colonial army, which is an inherently brutal role”. It has thousands of tanks and hundreds of fighter jets at its disposal, while Palestine has a grand total of zero. Gazan militants therefore have to “live among the civilian population and keep much of their weaponry in the neighbourhoods”, just as “every guerrilla army that fights on its own turf against an incomparably stronger enemy” does. This is not to lionise Hamas, as it seems they have instructed Gazan residents “to disregard Israeli warnings to evacuate their homes”, but Israelis themselves were told during the 1980s that it was their “patriotic duty” to “sit at home, helpless, risking [their lives] against incoming rockets, for the sake of national morale”. Although such an expectation for civilians to ‘die for the cause’ is not pleasant, the New York Times has highlighted that there is “no evidence that Hamas and other militants force civilians to stay in areas that are under attack” (which is the legal international definition of a human shield). [3]

 

Noam Sheizaf even points out that there are many Palestinians who do not like Hamas, but that a large number of them support the resistance against Israel because they see it as “part of their own war of independence”. [4] Israel doesn’t recognise this – or at least not in public – and its rhetoric is therefore limited to ‘fundamentalist terrorism’. For any change in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to take place, however, it is essential that Israelis understand why the Palestinians keep resisting.

 

The “inability to understand the enemy”, according to former US Secretary of Defence Robert McNamara (who served under Presidents Kennedy and Johnson), “stems from a lack of empathy”, and Sheizaf says this is true about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The US government, for example, was able to resolve the Cuban Missile Crisis in part thanks to its “ability to put itself in the shoes of the Soviets and understand their point of view”, but its failures in Vietnam resulted from the fact that it “didn’t know [the Vietnamese] well enough to empathise”. Subsequently, “each side had a completely different understanding of what the war was about”, and independence and unity between the south and north were only achieved after “between one and three million people”, mostly Vietnamese civilians, had died. The Vietnamese foreign minister told McNamara in 1991 “you were fighting to enslave us”, but McNamara affirmed that Vietnam was, for the USA, just another “element of the Cold War”. After this meeting, he could finally understand that, for the Vietnamese, it was a war of independence, and that was why they were “willing to make the worst sacrifices” – because they were “fighting [primarily] for their freedom.

 

This anecdote, according to Sheizaf, is applicable to both Israel and Palestine. For example, little after the mass extermination of Jews by the Nazis, around “one percent of the Jewish population” gave their lives in the war of 1948. Although Arab states resisted what they saw as continued colonialism, many Jews in Israel felt that they “were fighting for their lives and for their freedom”. Decades later, Palestinians tend to “support Hamas in its war against Israel” even if they oppose its “fundamentalist ideology, political oppression or other aspects of its rule”. For them, fighting the siege is part of their war of independence, which saw around 1,000 Palestinian civilians killed in the 2008-9 and 2012 Israeli ‘operations’ in Gaza, and which has seen another thousand such deaths in the current attack. Like the Jews back in 1948, the Palestinians feel they are fighting for their lives and their freedom.

 

Hamas, therefore, is not a “dictatorship fighting Israel against its people’s will”. In spite of opposition to aspects of Hamas’s rule and ideology, many Palestinians support “the attacks on IDF soldiers entering Gaza”, “kidnapping as means to release their… prisoners of war”, and “firing rockets at Israel”. They are under siege, and Hamas offers to defend them. Israelis who ask Gazans to “protest against Hamas” whilst under fire, therefore, fail to understand the Palestinian perspective, and what Hamas represents for the Palestinian resistance in Gaza. At the same time, it is incredibly hypocritical of the Israeli State, which hates “protests in times of war”, to ask Palestinian citizens to do something that it opposes in its own territory. Bombing Gaza “will not change their minds”, Sheizaf says, so the only way forward is to “understand what lies behind their position”, and use that understanding to advance with peaceful discussions. The current operation, if anything, is likely to have a negative effect on the conflict, putting at risk the support of the majority of Gazans [5] for a unity government with Mahmoud Abbas which renounces violence.

 

Back in the 1960s, according to McNamara, the USA “wouldn’t have even cared” about Vietnam if its citizens had “abandoned Communism” but, from the Vietnamese perspective, the Americans were simply continuing on from French colonialism. They felt they were stuck between “a corrupt US-sponsored regime in the south and a horrific war with the north”, and resistance seemed like the only option. In Palestine, meanwhile, “the choice is between occupation by proxy in the West Bank and a war in Gaza”. Neither option offers any hope or freedom.

 

Ending the armed struggle against Israel does not seem like an option for many Gazans, as such an action is not guaranteed to change anything. Peace in the West Bank, for example, hasn’t seen Palestinians move any closer to an independent state. At the same time, Hamas affirms that freedom “comes at the cost of blood”, and history suggests they are right. Only after the Second Intifada, in which thousands of Palestinians and Israelis died, were Israeli settlements in Gaza finally evacuated. This act was the result of violence, not negotiations. The Oslo Accords, meanwhile, in which the Israeli government and the PLO signed their first face-to-face agreement, only came after the First Intifada.

 

The Palestinians see “no reason to stop fighting” because they feel that, when the current invasion is over, “the siege will [simply] be reinforced”. And as long as Israel thinks it is “fighting a terror organization driven by a fundamentalist Islamic ideology”, and therefore refuses to understand that it is fighting against a people hungry for freedom, it is “only a matter of time before the next round of violence”. To end Palestinian resistance once and for all, then, Israel itself will have to abandon violence.

 

In a Facebook comment responding to Sheizaf’s article, Zeid Hamdi said that Israel “can be part of the solution by providing basic human needs such as security, stability, and shelter”, and ending “their efforts in settlement expansion”. If it stops giving citizenship and land (formerly belonging to Palestinians) to Jewish-born adults who have “never been to Israel or even the Middle East”, a significant step forward will have been taken, he affirmed. Palestinians would still have to forgive Israeli transgressions, and work to live harmoniously with their neighbours, but Hamdi believes this is possible if they feel they are being treated like human beings.

 

Benjamin Birely, meanwhile, who also responded to Sheizaf from Facebook, asserted that, from a pragmatic Israeli perspective, he understands why Gazans (and Palestinians in general) are fighting, but asks how many Gazans understand “the Israeli side”. “If I were a Palestinian”, he insisted, “I would want to resist Israel as well”, but “Israelis also have fears, frustrations, [and] problems” that need to be addressed. They are not “better or more important than Palestinians”, he said, but six million Jews in Israel cannot simply be ignored by Palestinians. If the latter wish to attract understanding from Israelis, therefore, and “mobilize [them] in huge numbers against the occupation”, they “must abandon violent resistance” and the claim to “all of historic Palestine”.

 

Zionism, Birely claimed, is simply part of the Israeli mind-set, and “will be… for generations”. The majority of Israeli Jews “were born and grew up here” and are not just “artificial colonialists who can just disappear”. They have no other home country, and want guarantees for their own safety and their own culture. Their colonialist government promises all of this, and they are scared about what would happen if they elected a government that took a softer line. As a result, “Israelis will never elect a left-wing government and will never give up on violence”, he affirmed, as long as “Palestinians and their leadership are committed to violent resistance”. It is a complicated and vicious cycle, agreed Birely, but this “is simply the reality”. Only by reaching an understanding between the people of Palestine and the people of Israel, therefore, will there be a lasting solution to the conflict between them.

 

Finally, Shu Ki (a worker at UNFPA) affirmed that “the only solution is the one state solution where all of us live together” (a solution not currently popular in Palestine (or Israel)). Based on the understanding and empathy referred to in this article, this solution can only happen, Ki says, if Israel stops “using violence to impose a monopoly on the land”.

 

The key thing to remember about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is that there are reasons why people on each side feel as they do. Condemnation of, and an end to, civilian murders in Palestine at the hands of the Israeli State is indeed necessary in the short term. In the long run, however, Palestinian and Israeli communities need to understand each other better, and bypass the violent rhetoric of their political leaders (whether colonisers or colonised). And observers around the world need to do the same, understanding that there is no simple solution to this conflict. The best we can do is to organise in our own communities and countries, and push for empathy and dialogue by pressurising our own ‘governments’ to end the arms trade with Israel. If they refuse to do so, then we must expose their complicity in the murder of innocent Palestinian civilians.

 

Notes

[1] http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/middle-east/Hamas-Israel-trade-blame-for-deaths-of-9-children/articleshow/39196331.cms

[2] http://972mag.com/blame-israel-and-hamas-both-for-gazas-civilian-deaths/93351/

[3] http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/24/world/middleeast/israel-says-hamas-is-using-civilians-as-shields-in-gaza.html?_r=0

[4] http://972mag.com/why-do-palestinians-continue-to-support-hamas-despite-such-devastating-loses/94080/

[5] http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/uploads/Documents/other/PalestinianPollingReport_June2014.pdf

 

This post was inspired by an article written by Noam Sheizaf and published at +972 on July 22, 2014. [4] The +972 blog (named after the telephone area code shared by Israel and Palestine) is a blog-based web magazine that is jointly owned by a collective of journalists, bloggers and photographers. It is committed to human rights and freedom of information, and opposed to the Israeli occupation. It is financed through readers’ support and grants, and writing is done voluntarily.

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India, the International Community, and Gaza

The nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government of India has recently been criticised for its role as a “spectator” in the Israeli attack on Gaza. Opposition parties even “walked out of the upper house of parliament” when the BJP “refused to pass a resolution condemning Israel for its invasion of the Gaza Strip”.

 

The government claims its policy of “equidistance” is a ‘legacy of the past governments’ and represents full “support the Palestinian cause while maintaining good relations with Israel”. It thus seeks to avoid ‘discourteous references’ which could have an impact on relations with Israel, such as the word ‘condemn’ which, according to foreign policy expert C Uday Bhaskar, would be an ‘inappropriate choice of word’.

 

Dr Harsh Dobhal, meanwhile, says the current Indian government has tried to maintain equal relations with Israel and Palestine in spite of the fact that they “cannot be treated at par” because “Israel is an occupier and Palestine is occupied”. With over a thousand (mostly civilian) deaths in Gaza and another 6,000 injured, the question Dobhal asks is if all Palestinians deserve to suffer for the actions of Hamas, whether they voted for them in 2006 or not. Other Indians have also criticised Israel’s disproportionate actions in Gaza, though only small student protests have taken place. One student in New Delhi affirmed that India was now “betraying” its history of support for “anti-colonial struggles”, and that protesters were “beaten up” by the police, even though they had previously announced their plans to protest.

 

Ideologically, the BJP is “closer” to Israel, according to Middle-East-expert Professor AK Pasha, and thus seeks a strong relationship with the state which will allow it to learn from its “anti-terrorism” tactics. These ideological similarities could also been seen on Twitter, with the hashtag #IndiaWithIsrael hoping to encourage thousands of Indians to support Israel because of its support in the 1971 and 1999 wars with Pakistan. Indian author Chetan Bhagat even said that the Israeli invasion, though unfair, was “sadly… the only way… terrorist organisations and their supporters learn to behave”.

Historically, India has been supportive of the Palestinian cause, becoming the first non-Arab state to recognise it and, in 1974, accept the position of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) as the “sole, legitimate representative of the Palestinian people”. In 1949, meanwhile, it made its stance clear by voting “against Israel’s induction into the United Nations”.

 

In recent decades, however, things have changed, with official diplomatic ties beginning in 1992 shortly after the intensification of the Pakistani-backed armed rebellion in Kashmir. And, during the Kargil Mountains conflicts in 1999, the relationship became significantly stronger, as Tel Aviv sent “unmanned reconnaissance… to help India… boost [its] war efforts”.

 

The increasingly militarist and capitalist India saw a friend in Israel and, in the past decade, it became the “largest buyer of Israeli defence equipment”, spending around $10bn. The country’s increasing support for Israel, however, according to Pasha, is likely to “have adverse effects both domestically and overseas”, as the ‘bulk of Indian energy comes from the Arab world’, and “millions of Indians work in [the] Middle East and… send billions in remittances”.

Although New Delhi supported the idea of unity between the “Hamas and Fatah factions in Palestine”, Bhaskar insists that Hamas’s support for violent resistance and the “destruction of Israel” leaves India, and many other countries, without a “black and white choice” between supporting Palestine or Israel.

 

And it is indeed difficult to support Hamas’s traditionally violent and uncompromising stance, but it is also necessary to condemn the Israeli State’s massacre of Palestinian civilians and understand that Palestinians are angry for a reason. Popular education and awareness of the history of the region is of great importance in order for the world’s citizens to understand the conflict and put pressure on the international community to act. As long as this community continues to sit on the fence for economic or political reasons, however, innocent Palestinians will continue to suffer and no permanent solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will be reached. Therefore, we need to demand that our governments stop fuelling the conflict with military assistance (mostly to Israel), and that they make it clear that Israel will be held accountable if it continues to murder innocent civilians. Only in this way will the powerful Israeli State be forced to sit around the table and truly invest time and effort into peacefully resolving this decades-old conflict.

 

Adapted by Oso Sabio from an article posted by Baba Umar on 27 Jul 2014 at http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2014/07/india-israel-gaza-crisis-palestine-hamas-bjp-2014727121259998483.html

Posted in Assassination, Autonomy, Bourgeois Democracy, capitalism, Democracy, dignity, Education, Exploitation, Gaza, Imperialism, Impunity, independence, Injustice, International Relations, Israel, justice, Murder, Neoliberalism, Oppression, Palestine, politics, rebellion, revolution, The Media, War | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Protests against Oligopolies, Inequality, Mining, & Dispossession in the Mexican Countryside (#23JMX)

“…The rich man came and broke [my yoke-ring],

He took off with all my corn,

Without even leaving me enough to eat,

And he presented me with my ‘bills’,

… What a shameless boss!

… My beloved said to me:

Don’t work for that man any more,

He’s just stealing from us,

… Long live the revolution,

And the end of supreme government…”

 

  • El Barzón (Mexican revolutionary song) [1]

 

El Barzón” (“The Yoke-Ring”) is a civil society organisation of farmers in Mexico which takes its name from the song above (about injustice in the countryside). Formed officially in 1994, it aims to “correct the political and economic causes of the recurring crises in the country that impoverish the population and stop the nation achieving sovereign, fair, and sustainable development on the basis of true democracy”. [2] Over two decades under NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement), the group has fought to protect Mexican agricultural workers and ensure that they have not had to suffer from the economic effects of peso devaluation as much as they would have otherwise. It is considered partly responsible for the defeat of the PRI in the 2000 elections and, in December 2002, members of the group even entered the Mexican Congress on horseback along with other protesters. [3] On July 23rd 2014, El Barzón called for a protest in Mexico City (which will be discussed later in this article).

 

The leader of El Barzón, Alfonso Ramírez Cuellar, has warned that the Countryside Reform (Reforma al Campo) announced by President Peña Nieto is distinctly neoliberal in character. [4] Instead of dealing with the real problems in the agricultural sector, he affirms, the reforms will simply continue with the policy of hand-outs and ignore calls for profound change. He also insists that the so-called reforms will just continue to encourage the growth of inequality and the enrichment of a small number of private companies.

 

The true solution, for Ramírez, is to dismantle the oligopoly of countryside businessmen, which uses its money to take ownership of resources and the means of production. As a result of this current system, he says, small producers find it impossible to compete, and therefore have to sell their produce at extremely low prices. Meanwhile, the new reforms will only ‘reorganise rules’, leaving this vicious cycle completely intact. As an alternative, Ramírez proposes the creation of a public company capable of gathering, marketing, and selling agricultural produce. This, he says, would help producers to earn a living wage and ensure that consumers were not subject to the abuse of large corporations. Business speculation, he affirms, has seen the price of beans, eggs, and chicken rise unexpectedly, and can only be dealt with through greater competition and regulation. (One criticism of Ramírez is that, although his hopes for greater justice are honourable, his plan ill-advisedly seems to believe in the capitalist system rather than in true democratic control of the economy.)

 

On July 22nd 2014, a movement against mining corporations raised its voice in Mexico City, protesting at the Ángel de la Independencia on the ‘World Day against Toxic Mega-Mining’. [5] Numerous organisations showed their opposition to the abuses of foreign mining corporations, claiming that the reforms proposed by Peña Nieto will simply contribute to further destruction of land and communities in Mexico. In particular, they said the changes will open the door even wider for multinational mining corporations to enter the country and take control of water, land, and natural resources. The existent laws are already too relaxed, declaring as they do the ‘preferential’ nature of the corporate mining activities over all others (Article 6 of the Mining Law of 1992), but the currently proposed reforms will simply exacerbate the situation, the protesting groups insisted.

 

Francisco Cravioto, from the Centro de Investigación y Análisis Fundar, affirmed that, according to official data from 2012, mining concessions exist on 16% of Mexican land (and this figure doesn’t mention whether this land is in protected areas or places where productive agricultural activities are already present). According to the current law, landowners are obliged to give their land to mining corporations for exploitation or ‘temporary occupation’. Cravioto argued that such allowances (which are given mostly to foreign companies) are unjustified, as they barely contribute to the wealth of the country – with only 114,000 jobs (of a temporary nature and only representing around 0.2% of the economically active population) being created as a result.

 

Organisations and communities from eight states of the Mexican Republic have presented an initiative for a new Mining Law, which would place the consent of inhabitants as a priority and would abolish harmful and polluting forms of exploitation. Unfortunately, however, the government has ignored these groups. Sergio Serrano, meanwhile, from the Pro San Luis Ecológico collective, continues in his attempt to form a citizen initiative to propose a new Mining Law and Water Law, and hopes to collect at least 110,000 signatures in order to support his proposal. He says that the most recent Energy Reform will simply facilitate increased exploitation and occupation of land by adding even more concessions to the 900 already in existence.

 

Meanwhile, a day after the anti-mining protest, on July 23rd, thousands of agricultural workers marched in Mexico City against the ‘privatising’ and ‘dispossessing’ reforms of President Peña Nieto. Under the motto of #ElCampoEsDeTodos (the Countryside Belongs to Us All), protesters included El Barzón members, ejido inhabitants, indigenous groups, and consumers from around the country. El Barzón claimed that it was marching because “Mexico has over 119 million food consumers and more than 30 million producers, but a tiny handful of companies control the market, paying miserable salaries to peasants and fixing high prices in the city”. [6]

 

These protests are simply two in a long of examples of social organisation against neoliberalism in Mexico. Yaquis have acted to defend their water in Sonora; the Wixáritari have stood up to Canadian mining companies in San Luis Potosí; communities have taken the decision to defend themselves in the absence of government support in Guerrero, Michoacán, and elsewhere; and the Zapatistas from Tojolabal, Tzeltal and Tzotzil communities have resisted oppression and dispossession in Chiapas for over 20 years, forming an alternative to the dominant political model.

 

With all of these popular struggles throughout the country, the protests of the 22nd and 23rd of July are not at all surprising, but they show that, after 20 years of the injustices compounded by NAFTA, there are many Mexicans who are conscious of the dangerous effects of allowing neoliberal reforms to continue. They also give us hope that awareness, dignified rage, and just resistance to the current system are growing on a daily basis. And, wherever we may be in the world, we can draw inspiration and lessons from these struggles, using them to strengthen our own resistance.

 

Notes:

[1] Amparo Ochoa – “El Barzón” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uFVUQN9CYEc

[2] Website of “El Barzón” http://elbarzon.mx/quienes-somos/

[3] Protesters Enter Congress on Horseback http://www.emol.com/noticias/internacional/2002/12/11/100216/campesinos-irrumpen-a-caballo-en-congreso-mexicano.html

[4] http://revoluciontrespuntocero.com/el-campo-mexicano-entre-oligopolios-especulacion-y-desigualdad-productiva/ (@RHashtag #RevistaHashtag #BocaDePoleno)

[5] http://www.jornada.unam.mx/2014/07/23/politica/007n1pol

[6] El Campo Es De Todos http://www.lajornadajalisco.com.mx/2014/07/22/el-campo-es-de-todos/

23JMX El Barzón protests

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MEXICO: We Need to Philosophise from an Indigenous Framework

Philosophising from Indigenous Communities: An Urgent Necessity

 

In Mexico, one of the main tasks for philosophers today is to deal with the country’s social reality, which in many ways finds itself in crisis. Mexican philosophy, therefore, unlike others, is situated within the socio-political context – which both conditions and facilitates the task.

 

The philosophy of indigenous communities in Mexico, however, has not been recognised, and has even been rejected, much like their ways of life and their right to autonomy. Below, we will discuss why their philosophies have been ignored or dismissed, and why this must change.

 

The recuperation of indigenous culture concerns us all, not just philosophers. In taking an interest, we discover numerous examples of inspirational resistance, such as: the defence of water in Sonora by the Yaqui tribe; the exploitation of the Wixárika territory in San Luis Potosí by Canadian mining companies; and the self defence of communities on the coast of Guerrero, where Community Police Forces have stepped up in the absence of a competent or interested State. And finally, we have the example of Zapatista communities in Chiapas which have defended their land since the agrarian crisis of 1974 and continue to build autonomous forms of societal organisation. But one recurring factor in all these campaigns is the discrimination of the government, landowners, and businessmen towards such indigenous peasant organisations.

 

In each case, questions arise regarding the legitimacy of these groups (as philosopher Enrique Dussel considered [1]), and regarding the philosophical basis behind such forms of organisation. In many cases, mestizos have learned about other cultures, but they have also looked down on them, having adopted a “Western” way of thinking. As a result, the idea of embracing and rescuing indigenous culture can be quite unsettling for them.

 

By encouraging the recognition of the diversity within the Mesoamerican cultures present in Mexico, we do not necessarily mean that everything “Western” should be overlooked or forgotten. However, we do need to start off with the correct conceptual framework. For example, we first need to accept the existence of a unique indigenous culture and challenge all doubts about the human condition of indigenous people. In México Profundo (‘Deep Mexico’), Bonfil Batalla helps us to develop this framework by deciphering what is presented to us as ‘reality’.

 

The attack on indigenous culture began with the Spanish Conquest, so we first need to look at how colonisation distanced the colonisers from the colonised. We also need to consider how the continued domination and centralisation of knowledge by Western philosophy in society has ensured that this ‘distance’, to a certain extent, persists today. From the very start, for example, Western ideologues claimed that indigenous inferiority was natural, and this idea soon turned into real social inferiority.

 

A fundamental characteristic of all colonial societies is the ideological affirmation that the invaders, who belong to a different culture from those who are being invaded, are in some way superior in all aspects and that, as a result, the culture of those whose land has been colonised must be rejected and excluded. And this is precisely the process that took place in Mexico, and continued after independence from Spain. As there was never a true decolonisation, the internal colonial structure simply remained, and the dominant class which took power after 1821 never renounced the Western ‘civilising project’ or the distorted view of Mexico held by the colonisers.[2]

 

An imaginary Mexico was soon created, with the idea of a “unique Mexican culture”, and the differences between the diverse communities within the nation were overlooked. As a result, the new ‘civilising project’ saw social groups which had been westernised (whether through heritage or circumstance) reject the place of Mesoamerican civilisation in their culture. The world views of the colonising and colonised civilisations, including their perceptions of nature and humans, were different, and their disagreements were intensified by the fact that westernised groups had considered indigenous communities inferior for centuries. The original inhabitants of Mexico which had failed to assimilate into the culture of the colonisers would have no part to play in the continuing Western project.

 

As a result of the subsequent homogenisation, our journey towards understanding the complexity of our own condition will be a long one. Colonisers and Western ideologues have long ensured that a process ‘deindianisation’ distances us from our roots – a tactic characterised by Batalla as the ‘loss of collective identity to make domination possible’. In summary, people were displaced and their ways of thinking and living were suppressed, all in order to create a fictitious Mexico that denies its own history and is even embarrassed by it.

 

In the process of recuperation, though, it is not only the mestizo who needs to reflect. Some indigenous communities have managed to conserve their identities in spite of the presence of the dominant culture, but there are also many who do not try to recognise themselves in the history of the ‘Deep Mexico’. Having been ‘deindianised’, both mestizo and indigenous citizens may be confused about their identities, unaware of their history, and therefore ignorant to the reasons behind the problems facing them and their communities today. Upon seeking to “recuperate the Indian” and “possess their own I”, mestizos in particular are likely to “see their reality divided”. Rather than this division being imposed upon them by the dominant culture, however, this division will now reside inside them, “in their own spirit”.[3]

 

When the mestizo approaches the indigenous, they begin to see how they are in a similar situation – that of exploitation. In this way, they learn to recognise themselves within this circumstance, and act in a different way as a result. They no longer see indigenous communities in the framework of the oppressor, and start to understand that ‘Indian’ was just a pejorative word used by colonialists to homogenise all that was ‘non-Spanish’ (or, today, ‘non-Western’). They also recognise that, by doing this, colonisers sought to declare the inferiority of all that was ‘different’.

 

So, in what way have philosophers approached indigenous cultures in the last century?

 

Before answering this question, it is important to emphasise that ‘indigenous communities’ are not one group alone – and that such a categorisation would place us in the same framework as the colonisers and their ‘Indians’. Instead, we could talk about the Nahuas, Purépechas, Tojolabales, Tzeltales, Huicholes, Chichimecos, Otomíes, Paipais, Kiliwas, Mazatecos, or Ixcatecos – to name just a few. To recognise the differences between these groups in this way is to respect their individual identities and give them each the place they deserve.

 

It is essential that we look at the world through the framework of a ‘Deep Mexico’. We could mention historical figures or groups, but that would only be to understand why different groups exist today. Instead, we should try to place ourselves within the conceptual framework of other cultures – such as the Tojolabales, Tzeltales and Tzotziles, who called themselves Zapatistas in their fight to defend their land and sovereignty in Chiapas. We should also look at the world through the framework of their construction of a new form of political organisation – totally different from that present in the West. By looking at the world in the way they do, we can begin to understand that their circumstances are ours too.

 

In “Philosophising in the Key of Tojolabal”, Carlos Lenkersdorf affirms that politics, for this community, must be looked at from the “we” (or -tik). At birth, mothers are surrounded by family members as they go into labour, and the new-born child is passed into the arms of each one. The place of the baby on the back or chest of the mother in the first few months represents the incorporation of the child into the “we”, as it observes and becomes a part of its mother’s daily activities. In this way, learning is a collective process from the moment of birth in the Tojolabal context.

 

Meanwhile, the problems set out at school are always related to what happens in the community, and the problems are solved by the whole community. The presence of “WE” is essential, and education here is therefore referred to as “we-centric”. This is the basis of both the community’s politics and organisation.

 

The “–tik” is key in understanding Tojolabal philosophy, as it is central whenever the community refers to experiences, thoughts, or decisions. It represents a “large number of components or members, including animals and nature” and, without “losing their individuality”, each member is considered a part of all that surrounds them.[4] Although the different opinions of individuals are heard, an attempt is always made to reach a consensuswith the common good in mind. And the impact of decisions on nature, from animals to rocks, is of great importance – hence the Tojolabal commitment to defending land and subsequent conflict with Western philosophy, whose project of neoliberalism does not consider the impact of its actions on the Earth.

 

In a socio-political framework, the “we” is an organisational principle. It is the community organisation in assemblies which does not resemble the form of political association dominant in the world today. It considers the combination of intelligence, feelings, and reason when making decisions, but is propped up by judgements based on experience and on the will to act. And all members of the community are considered in these decisions.

 

In the Tojolabal context, the key is cooperation and collaboration – both based on organisation. Their Mexico – one example of ‘Deep Mexico’ – brings all citizens together to reach a consensus, respecting differences of opinion in the process. The other Mexico – the fictitious one – does not.

 

As we have seen, the dominant schools of philosophy and politics are not the only ones. There are others to consider, and we must open ourselves up to them. By reflecting on the knowledge of our indigenous communities, and asking ourselves how we can create a “we” space like in Tojolabal communities, we can visualise and create new horizons. Upon considering the quantity and distribution of citizens, however, along with the structures used when they relate, we see that the possibilities for creating these new horizons vary. In a place with thousands of inhabitants, for example, where people are unaccustomed to discussing every decision that affects them, such a task would be incredibly difficult. And many citizens are unused to such dialogue precisely because ‘democratic’ procedures have minimised participation to elections or ‘majority’ decisions (however slight the margins). This is the norm today, and it makes understanding other forms of organisation a significant challenge.

 

From a framework of Western concepts and experiences, other forms of organisation appear strange and inaccessible, and it is therefore crucial that philosophers engage with the ‘Deep Mexico’, and the diversity that lies within. The same is true throughout Latin America (and other former colonies), where different forms of philosophising, knowing, and existing are present. And they are all within our reach, as parts of our nations, even though they may be buried, ignored, or rejected.

 

Reflecting on alternatives is an urgent task for philosophers, and a great worry for the current generation. The taking of water in Sonora, displacements in Chiapas, or invasions of Canadian mining companies are risks to us all. We may be a combination of different ethnic groups, but we all share the same condition. We are all exploited.

 

We must therefore assume the task of counter-hegemonic philosophy, of embracing and understanding the different traditions that have been hidden for too long. In order to bring about change in the concrete situations we experience on a daily basis, we must open up the discussion, philosophising not from the dominant ideologies, but from the framework of our own indigenous communities. By doing so, we can set out potential solutions and transform both our way of thinking and our way of life.

 

________________________________________

[1] Dussel, Enrique. “¿Son legítimas la policía y la justicia comunitarias según usos y costumbres?” en La Jornada [en línea], publicado el 15 de enero del 2013.

[2] Bonfil Batalla, Guillermo. México profundo: una civilización negada. Editorial Grijalbo, México D.F, 1989. p. 11

[3] Villoro, Luis. Los grandes momentos del indigenismo en México. México, CIESA-SEP, 1987. p. 225

[4] Lenkersdorf, Carlos. Filosofar en clave tojolabal. Edición de Miguel Ángel Porrúa, México, Porrúa, 1ª edición, 2002. p. 29

 

Translated and adapted by Oso Sabio from a text originally posted in Spanish on July 18th, 2013 at http://filosofiamexicana.org/2013/07/18/filosofar-desde-los-pueblos-originarios-una-necesidad-impostergable/ (@FilosofiaMexico) by Luz María León (luzfilos@gmail.com)

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Israel’s Operation Protective Edge is Really About Natural Gas

Originally posted on Anti-Imperialism.com:

While many articles have debunked the myth that Israel is acting out of “self-defense,” very few have attempted to establish why Israel is continuing its assault on Palestine through Operation Protective Edge, aside from the supposition that Zionists have a fanatic penchant for drawing Palestinian blood. Behind the operation, behind the mass Israeli and U.S. propaganda attempting to justify the massacre, and behind the death of every child in Gaza is a conflict rarely discussed, an imperialist conflict and a contradiction that rests on Israel’s ambitions to appropriate and profit from Gaza’s natural gas resources.

To provide some background, the natural gas issue arose in the year 2000 when British Gas (BG) discovered what they claimed to be $4 billion worth of natural gas reserves off the coast of Gaza. The Palestinian Investment Fund (PIF) and British Gas (BG) both invested in the project, with BG holding 60% of…

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