Deleuze on the Palestinians|Bourdieu|Merleau-Ponty

-------------- Dele uze Bou rdieu Merlea uPo nty on the Palestin ian Con flict

Gilles Deleuze:

The following text originally appeared in Le Monde, April 7, 1978, and is reprinted in Two Regimes of Madness (Semiotexte, 2006)

How could the Palestinians be "genuine partners" in peace talks when they have no country? But how could they have a country when it was taken from them? The Palestinians were never given any choice other than unconditional surrender. All they were offered was death. In the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the actions of the Israelis are considered legitimate retaliation (even if their attacks do seem disproportionate), whereas the actions of the Palestinians are without fail treated as terrorist crimes. And the death of a Palestinian has neither the same interest nor the same impact as the death of an Israeli.

Since 1969, Israel has unrelentingly bombed and strafed Southern Lebanon. Israel has explicitly said that its recent invasion of Lebanon was not in retaliation for the terrorist attack on Tel-Aviv (eleven terrorists against thirty thousand soldiers); on the contrary, it represents the culmination of a plan, one in a whole series of operations to be initiated at Israel’s discretion. For a "final solution" to the Palestinian question, Israel can count on the almost unanimous complicity of other States (with various nuances and restrictions). A people without land, and without a State, the Palestinians are the spoilers of peace for everyone involved. If they have received economic and military aid from certain countries, it has been in vain. The Palestinians know what they are talking about when they say they are alone.

Palestinian militants are also saying that they have managed to pull off a kind of victory. Left behind in Southern Lebanon were only resistance groups, which seem to have held up quite well under attack. The Israeli invasion, on the other hand, struck blindly at Palestinian refugees and Lebanese farmers, a poor population that lives off the land. Destruction of villages and cities, and the massacre of innocent civilians have been confirmed. Several sources indicate that cluster bombs were used. This population of Southern Lebanon, in perpetual exile, keeps leaving and coming back under Israeli military strikes that one is hard-pressed to distinguish from acts of terrorism. The latest hostilities have ousted more than 200,000 from their homes, now refugees wandering the roads. The State of Israel is using in southern Lebanon the method which proved so effective in Galilee and elsewhere in 1948: it is "Palestinizing" Southern Lebanon.

Palestinian militants for the most part come from this population of refugees. Israel thinks it will defeat the militants by creating more refugees, thereby surely creating more terrorists.

It is not merely because we have a relationship with Lebanon that we say: Israel is massacring a fragile and complex country. There is something else. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a model that will determine how problems of terrorism will be dealt with elsewhere, even in Europe. The worldwide cooperation of States, and the worldwide organization of police and criminal proceedings, will necessarily lead to a classification extending to more and more people who will be considered virtual "terrorists." This situation is analogous to the Spanish Civil War, when Spain served as an experimental laboratory for a far more terrible future.

Today Israel is conducting an experiment. It has invented a model of repression that, once adapted, will profit other countries. There is great continuity in Israeli politics. Israel believes that the U.N. resolutions verbally condemning Israel in fact put it in the right. Israel has transformed the invitation to leave the occupied territories into the right to establish colonies there. It thinks sending an international peace-keeping force into Southern Lebanon is an excellent idea… provided that this force, in the place of Israeli forces, transforms the region into a police zone, a desert of security. This conflict is a curious kind of blackmail, from which the whole world will never escape unless we lobby for the Palestinians to be recognized for what they are: "genuine partners" in peace talks. They are indeed at war, in a war they did not choose.

In an interview with the Revue d'etudes palestiniennes in 2000, the late Pierre Bourdieu said: "I have always hesitated to take public positions...because I did not feel sufficiently competent to offer real clarifications about, what is undoubtedly, the most difficult and most tragic question of our times (how to choose between the victims of racist violence par excellence and the victims of these victims?).
Subject: The Grandeur of Yasser Arafat

Gilles Deleuze

Tranlated by Timothy Murphy

Originally published in Revue d'etudes palestiniennes,
September 1983.
This trans. from Discourse Fall 1998.

The Palestinian cause is first and foremost the set of injustices that these people have suffered and continue to suffer. These injustices are acts of violence, but also illogicalities, false reasonings, false guarantees that claim to compensate or vindicate them. Arafat needed only one word to describe the broken promises, the violated agreements, at the moment of the Sabra and Shatila massacres: shame, shame (italics in the original).<1>

It`s said that this is not a genocide. And yet it's a story that consists of many Oradours, from the very beginning.2<2> Zionist terrorism was practiced not solely against the English, but on the Arab village which had to disappear;Irgoun was very active in this respect (Deir Yasin).<3> From beginning to end, it involved acting as if the Palestinian people not only must not exist, but had never existed.

The conquerors were those who had themselves suffered the greatest genocide in history. Of this genocide the Zionists have made an absolute evil (italics in original). But transforming the greatest genocide in history into an absolute evil is a religious and mystical vision, not a historical vision. It doesn't stop the evil; on the contrary, it spreads the evil, makes it fall once again on other innocents, demands reparation that makes these others suffer part of what the Jews suffered (expulsion, restriction to ghettos, disappearance as a people). With "colder" means than genocide, one ends up with the same result.

The United States and Europe owed reparation to the Jews. And they made a people, about whom the least that could be said is that they had no hand in adn were singularly innocent of any holocaust and hadn't even heard of it, pay this reparation. It's there that the grotesque begins, as well as the violence. Zionism, then the state of Israel will demand that the Palestinians recognize its right(droit).(italics and French in the trans.) But the state of Israel will never stop denying the very fact of a Palestinian people. They will never speak of Palestinians but of the Arabs of Palestine, as if they found themselves there by chance or in error. And later, they will act as if the expelled Palestinians came from outside, they will speak of the first war of resitance that the Palestinians led all
alone. Since they haven't recognized Israel's right, they will be made into descendants of Hitler. But Israel reserves the right to deny their existence in fact. Here begins a fiction that had to stretch further and further, and to weigh on all those who defended the Palestinian cause. This fiction, this wager of Israel's, was to make all those who would contest the de facto conditions and actions of the Zionist state appear as anti-Semites. This operation finds its source in Israel's cold politics with respect to the Palestinians.

From the start, Israel has never concealed its goal:to empty the Palestinian territory. And better, to act as if the Palestinian territory were empty, always destined for the Zionists. It was clearly a matter of colonization, but not in the nine-teenth-century European sense: the local inhabitants would not be exploited, they would be made to leave. Those who remained would be made, not into a dependent territorial workforce, but rather into a mobile and deteched workforce, as if they were immigrants placed into a ghetto. From the start, lands bought on the condition that they be empty of occupants, or can be emptied. It's a genocide, but one in
which physical extermination remains subordinated to geographical evacuation:being only Arabs in general, the surviving Palestinians must go merge with other Arabs. Physical extermination , though it may or may not be entrusted to mercenaries, is most certainly present. But this isn't a genocide, they say, since it's not the "final goal"; in reality, it's just one means among others.

The complicity of the United States with Israel does not arise soley from the Zionist lobby. Elias Sanbar ( Revue D'Etudes palestiniennes) has shown clearly how the United States rediscovered in Israel an aspect of its own history:the extermination of the Indians which, there as well, was only in part physical. It was a matter of emptying, as if there had never been an Indian except in the ghettos which were made for them as immigrants from inside. In many respects, the Palestinians are the new Indians, the Indians of Israel. Marxist analysis reveals the two complementary movements of capitalism:constantly to impose limits, which it develops and exploits its own system; and always pushes these limits farther back, to exceed them in order to begin its own foundation once again on a larger and more intense scale. Pushing back limits was the act of American capitalism, the American
dream, taken up by Israel and the dream of Greater Israel on Arab territory, on the backs of the Arabs.

How the Palestinian people learned to resist and are resisting; how a people of ancient lineage became an armed nation; how they gave themselves a body which simply represent them but embodied them, outside their territory and without a state:all these events demanded a greater historical character, one who, we might say from a Western point of view, could have stepped out of Shakespeare, and that was Arafat. It wasn't the first time in history that something like this had happened (the French can think of Free France,except for the fact that it had a smaller popular base at the beginning). And all the occasions on which a solution or element of solution was possible, occasions that the Israelis have deliberately , knowingly
destroyed, are not happening for the first time in history either. The Israelis held onto their religious position of denying not only the Palestinian right but also the Palestinian fact. They cleansed themselves of their own terrorism by treating the Palestinians as terrorists from outside. And precisely because the Palestinians were not that, but rather were a specific people as different from other Arabs as Europeans can be among themselves, they could expect only ambiguous aid from the Arab states themselves, aid which sometime turned back into hostility and extermination when the Palestinian model became dangerous for them. The Palestinians have run through all the infernal cycles of history: the failure of solutions each they were possible, the worst reversals of alliance of which they bore they brunt, the most solemn promises not kept. And on all this their resistance had to nourish itself.

It may well be that one of the goals of the Sabra and Shatila massacres was to discredit Arafat. He only consented to the departure of the combatants, the force of which remained intact, on condition that the security of their families be absolutely guaranteed by the United States and even by Israel. After the massacres had had no other word than "shame." If the ensuing crisis for the PLO resulted, in more or less the long term, either in an integration into an Arab state or a dissolution into Muslim fundamentalism, then it could be said that the Palestinian people had effectively disappeared. But this would be in such conditions that the
world, the United States and even Israel would not finish regretting the lost occasions, including those that still remain today. To Israel's most arrogant formula, "We are not a people like others," the Palestinians have not stopped responding with the cry that was invoked in the first issue of the Revue d'etudes palestiniennes: "We are people like others, we only want to be that...."

By leading the terrorist war in Lebanon, Israel believed it could be suppress the PLO and deprive it of the support of the Palestinian people, already deprived of their land. And perhaps's its succeeding, since in surrounded Tripoli there is nothing more than the physical presence of Arafat among his own, all in a sort of solitary grandeur.

But the Palestinian people will not lose their identity without creating in its place a double terrorism, of the state and of religion, which will profit from its disappearance and render impossible any peaceful settlement with Israel. From the war in Lebanon Israel will not escape merely morally divided and economically disorganized, it will find itself faced with the mirror of its own intolerance. A political solution, a peaceful settlement is possible with an independent PLO which will not have disappeared into an already existing state and will not be lost among the diverse Islamic movements. The disappearance of the PLO would only be a victory for the blind forces of war, indifferent to the survival of the Palestinian people.

Gilles Deleuze

translated by Timothy Murphy

Originally published in Revue d'etudes palestiniennes,
September 1983.
This trans. from Discourse Fall 1998.

1. Sabra and Shatila massacres:1982 massacres of Palestinians at refugee camps in Lebanon, carried by Lebanese Phalangist aided by the Israeli army.
2 Oradour french village destroye by Nazi occupation troops in retaliation for Resistance activity shorty after the start of the D-Day invasion.
3. Irgoun:right wing Zionist organization that used terrorist tacts against British force and others in postwar Palestine.

Diana H. Coole, Merleau-Ponty and Modern Politics After Anti-Humanism. p. 51.
The purpose of questioning such presuppositions was to challenge liberal hypocrisy. In the then-current context this meant bu "not ceasing to explicate the liberal mystification wherever it arises-in Palestine, in Indochina, or even in France." Inasmuch as humanist values were universally applauded, they must speak in the name of a practical freedom applicable to all, the Vietnamese or Palestinian as much as the Western individual. "We must remember that liberty becomes a false ensign...as soon as it becomes only an idea and we begin to defend liberty instead of free men" (HT xxiii-xxiv).