Whenever I talk to people about Palestine, and why a democratic, secular state, where jews and Palestinians have equal rights is the solution, it seems that there are always two objections.
1. Why don't you condemn suicide bombings?
2. It's unrealistic fight for that, Israel has been around for over 50 years. It is an established fact
ON SUICIDE BOMBINGS: First of all, before you criticize or praise a particular tactic, you have to say which side are you on. For example, a CEO criticizing "his" striking workers for setting up a picket line as "disruptive" to "law and order" or "commerce" is different than if a worker who is on strike criticizes the picket line for being ineffective, or the wrong tactic. Why is this different? Because the CEO is against the workers - no matter what tactic they use - and the worker is fighting in the interests of himself, and his class.
Now, when Ariel Sharon (Prime Minister of Israel, and war-criminal extraodinaire) "condemns suicide bombing", it is nothing but sheer hypocrisy. This man his built his whole career around terrorizing Arabs, Palestinians in particular; in 1953, he murdered villagers in Qibya, in 1982, he orchestrated the slaughter of thousands of Palestinian refugees at Sabra and Shatila, in 2002 he ordered the Israeli army, with its tanks and bulldozers, to destroy the refugee camp in Jenin, and a few weeks ago, he ordered an F-16 to drop a bomb on a crowded apartment building in the Gaza Strip to kill one man!
In this latest atrocity, 15 people were killed, 9 of them children; and Gaza is the most densely populated strip of land on Earth. The reason he ordered the strike was because a few hours earlier, Hamas announced that it would cease all suicide bombings in Israel. This man doesn't want peace - he wants war. He deliberately provoked Hamas, and less than a week later there was a bombing at a university in which 5 Americans and 2 others (I apologize I don't know their nationality offhand) were killed. It was his visit to the Al-Aqsa mosque, one of the holiest sites in Islam, with 1,000 Israeli cops, that sparked the new Intifada. So this man his built his career around terrorizing and provoking the Palestinians - and he has the nerve to condemn "terrorism" and denounce suicide bombings as "provocations." He provokes Palestinian resistance to justify more invasions, arrests, shootings, murders, torture, and brutality against the Palestinian people.
The point here being, Sharon and the state of Israel are against the Palestinians - and they cannot point fingers soaked with the blood of thousands of men, women, and children.
But you also hear condemnations of suicide bombing from parts of the left, particularly liberal/pacifist groups. They argue that "we must condemn ALL acts of violence," and "we must condemn the killing of innocents on both sides". Generally groups or individuals who argue this do not state clearly that they are for one side or the other. Rather, they want "both sides" to "come to the table" to "talk about peace" or some other such garbage.
What they don't understand (or willfully ignore) is that the Palestinians and Israel are not on an equal footing; in fact, Israel oppresses the Palestinians by bulldozing their homes, stealing their land, killing their people, harassing them at check points, firing at ambulances, refusing to employ them, and so on. The violence of the Palestianians is the violence of resistance, not oppression. That is the key difference.
In order to highlight the difference, let us take another example. A gun is lying on the ground in Auschwitz. A Nazi picks it up, and shoots a Jew; it is an instrument of oppression. A Jew picks it up, and shoots a Nazi; it is an instrument of liberation.
Because the Palestinians are an oppressed people, we socialists do not and never will condemn them - we will always condemn their oppressors, and the fact that they are oppressed. If they weren't oppressed, they wouldn't resort to violence for their liberation, and they wouldn't resort to suicide bombings out of desperation. For that is what suicide bombings are, the result of desperation born of the longest running and most brutal military occupation of the 20th century. And we do not condemn them for being desperate! On the contrary, we condemn, attack, and villify those who made them desperate in the first place.
Critizing "both sides" for "violence" is nothing but disgusting hypocrisy and impotent moralism, because it diverts attention away from the real, living fact that the Palestinians are being oppressed daily, for the last 50+ years, by the state of Israel. Criticizing "both sides" means letting Israel off the hook, who is responsible for the violence (on both sides) in the first place.
Also, it ignores the real situation the Palestinians are in; if a tank came barelling down your street, crushed your neighbor's house, and was about to crush yours, killing your family, brothers, sisters, and children, what would you do? Flash a peace sign, hold a candlelight vigil, and sing "we shall overcome" as the Israeli tank treads crush your skull and roll onto the next house? Or would try to blow up the tank, or at least immobilize it - and failing that, try to get back at the people who destroyed your house, killed your family, and ruined your life?
Now, this isn't to say that because socialists support the Palestinians' right to armed struggle against their oppression that we support all forms of that struggle. We don't think suicide bombings are a good tactic, because they will strengthen Israel's hand and provide a convenient pre-text for their crimes; we don't think that suicide bombings, no matter how many are killed, will ever stop the Israeli war machine; we don't think suicide bombings will liberate the Palestinians. We disagree with suicide bombings on the grounds of tactics, as a means, because we support the goal, we support the ends.
We don't support the Palestinians with strings attached. We support them unconditionally, no matter what tactics they decide to use. But it only on that basis of unconditional support that we (or anyone else for that matter) has the right to criticize this or that tactic. Anything else is pure hypocrisy.
ON REALISM, PESSIMISM, AND A BIT OF HISTORY: The idea that, "well Israel has been here for 50 years and we should just accept it's existence and work around it" is utterly false, despite its pretense of being "realistic."
First of all, it would condemn the millions of Palestinians living in refugee camps all over the Middle East to being homeless, rootless, and impoverished forever. Second of all, by accepting Israel's "right" to exist, it sanctions theft and murder - "might makes right", given about 50 years or so. Third of all, as the Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky's son put it, "capitulation is an inclined plane. Once you begin to descend, you cannot stop until you hit the bottom." So we accept Israel's "right to exist"; then we have to support what it does to "defend its right to exist" - that is, bombing refugee camps and demolishing homes! Then we should accept "Bush's right to be President", and his "right" to bomb the shit out of Afghanistan? I would rather not set foot on the inclined plane of capitulation.
And throughout history, the "realists" have been nothing more than nay-sayers, poo-pooers, and the most dangerous pessimists - dangerous in so far that they claim to be on the same side as the cause they poo-poo. "Realism" has always tried to blunt, stifle, calm, and contain struggles for justice and liberation within the unjust and oppressive framework of the status quo. To paraphrase Malcolm X's attitude towards "realists": when your coffee is too strong, too hot, you put some creamer in to weaken it, to cool it. Pretty soon, you don't know if you're drinking coffee or creamer anymore, and instead of waking you up, it puts you to sleep.
When people began to organize and fight apartheid in South Africa, where were the realists? They were saying, "oh we shouldn't abolish apartheid, it's been here for decades. Let's be realistic, let's fix it, let's compromise with it." And yet who won? The "realists", the "pragmatists", or the people who were willing to stick to their guns and fight for their dreams?
When the civil rights movment started in the U.S., what were the realists saying? "Jim Crow has been here for almost 100 years. Let's be realistic - we'll never get rid of it. Let's fix it, let's compromise with it, let's vote for someone who is a little less racist," and so on. And yet, who was proven to be right, the "realists", or the people who had the unreal dream of racial equality, desegregation and the will to organize and fight for it?
When the abolitionists agitated for the abolition of slavery, the realists said, "Slavery is an accomplished fact. Let's fix it, let's compromise with it, let's make it a little less brutal." And yet slavery was abolished - after 400 years of existence!
If slavery was around for 400 years before it was abolished, there is no reason why Israeli apartheid cannot be dismantled - even if it takes years of struggle. After all, this is the only realistic solution to the oppression of the Palestinians.