Fighting Fascism with the Fist / Dorit Argo

On Friday 27 May 2011 one of the most impressive civil disobedience demonstrations in the Solidarity Movement’s history took place in East Jerusalem’s Ras Al-Amoud. Out of a torrent of reactions expressing shock and dismay at the depth of hatred emanating from the settlers and the degree of violence of security forces serving them, came also some tut-tutting from the liberal direction. The ethical argument behind this criticism is that even if the settlers are our political rivals they must be respected. In practice, this means standing opposite them with placards rather than physically blocking the entry to the settlement; adherence to accepted liberal democratic norms of avoiding direct confrontation, it is claimed, aligns directly with the non-violent traditions of Gandhi and Luther King Jr.

This argument falls to pieces at several levels, not least that of historical accuracy: India’s struggle against British Colonialism or that of African-Americans in the US bore not a jot of similarity with white bourgeois holding protest signs. It is a faulty comparison on principle, because it misses the point of the challenge currently before us. As Israeli activists neither occupation nor oppression is part of our experience. We are people who stand in complete solidarity with our Palestinian partners, who inspirationally continue their struggle in the non-violent tradition, a choice that is theirs, not ours.

Nevertheless, there is a struggle that is indisputably ours: the struggle for our society’s identity, the struggle against fascism. So when choosing to make a historical comparison, instead of seeing ourselves as struggling against colonialism, the valid comparison is with those who combated fascism. Seen from that historical perspective, a clear picture emerges. Against fascism you raise not a placard but a clenched fist.

Five days after the demonstration in Ras Al-Amoud, hatred and racism went on parading through the streets of Jerusalem. The marchers sang a repertoire of slogans and songs familiar from football stadiums. “Death to the Arabs”, “Muhammad’s dead”, “may your village burn” and more – only this time, these hate-filled songs were allowed to be bawled in front of mosques and throughout the alleys of the Muslim Quarter with the protection of the police and under the auspices of the State of Israel. The Municipality announced the event, Knesset Members marched in it, the Prime Minister blessed it. Israeli fascism is now a popular movement seeking to gain a foothold in not only the area, but also the hearts of the masses and government institutions. Already today collaboration can be pinpointed between fascist elements and politicians projecting a liberal image such as Nir Barkat and Gideon Saar. This process, as it intensifies, will render the liberal spirit that has characterized large sectors of the Israeli left utterly irrelevant.

It seems that we have not yet reached the height of the fascist storm, but on Yom Yerushalayim,(Jerusalem Day) I felt the threatening shadow more than ever. An aged vendor from the Muslim Quarter was among the few Palestinians who dared venture into the streets. He took me to see graffiti sprayed on the gates of his padlocked store. It looks like it came straight from Goebbels’s ministry (“of public enlightenment and propaganda”), depicting Arab son-of-death with putrid, flea-ridden beard.

The first fascist march took place in Rome in 1922. For two days Mussolini’s brownshirts ran riot after the king of Italy and the conservative institutions allowed them to enter. Nine left-wing activists were murdered, offices and stores were raided and smashed, those who fled were attacked and beaten. If the 2011 Jerusalem fascist march is not to herald similar catastrophes a struggle is needed, not a protest. Our only chance now is to internalize the slogan “NO PASARAN” – or in its local version, “Fascism will not pass”. It cannot remain only a slogan, it must be translated into practical action on the ground, as in Ras Al-Amoud.

Supplementary reading:

If a policeman beats you, it doesn’t mean you did something wrong / Eitan Grossman 
The Beauty of Defiance: Solidarity in Ras al-Amud / David Shulman 
Police Violence Against Solidarity’s Activists in Ras El-Amud: A report 
Refuse to Get Used to Hatred: Solidarity Activist Yael Kenan Remarks on the Ras El-Amud Demonstration  
Tens of thousands of settlers rioted East Jerusalem yesterday – on Jerusalem Day