Does unarmed resistance in Palestine work?

The authors of the new book  Popular Protest in Palestine discuss whether peaceful resistance to Israeli occupation is appropriate in the face of so much violence.

Darweish PPIP‘In March 2015 the Israeli electorate voted into power the most hard-line coalition in Israel’s history, headed up by Benjamin Netanyahu who had campaigned on the promise that he would prevent the establishment of any Palestinian state. In the national newspaper Haaretz the correspondent Gideon Levy bemoaned the result: ‘If after six years years of sowing fear and anxiety, hatred and despair, this is the nation’s choice, then it is very ill indeed. Netanyahu deserves the Israeli people and they deserve him.’ (Haaretz, 18 March 2015) Another commentator, James Besser, concluded that ‘apartheid is the path Israeli voters have chosen. The inevitable results will include even greater international isolation for the Jewish state, a boost to efforts to apply boycotts and sanctions, diminished support from American Jews and endlessly intensifying cycles of violence.’ (Haaretz, 20 March 2015)

But whilst the Israeli peace-camp anguished over the result, in the Occupied Palestinian Territories the return of Netanyahu to power was met with indifference by significant sections of the population. As Huneida Ghanem of the Palestinian Forum for Israeli Studies explained, ‘Nothing is going to come from the Israeli state if the Israelis don’t feel they don’t pay any price for the Israeli occupation.’ (, 22 June 2015)

Ghanem’s analysis echoed one of the conclusions we reached in Popular Protest in Palestine: The Uncertain Future of Unarmed Resistance. In 2002, the wave of Palestinian unarmed resistance to occupation grew in response to the Israeli decision to build a Wall between the West Bank and Israel. The subsequent resistance movement failed to exert sufficient leverage on Israeli publics and decision-makers, and the question of Israeli commitment to occupation was left untouched.

We came to this conclusion after conducting numerous interviews with Israeli peace activists struggling to maintain hope for the future of their country. One of our informants expressed herself with brutal frankness:

“The popular resistance is weakening. It breaks my heart. I want to live here, but the worst thing for Israel is peace and quiet. If the occupation continues there is no future for Israel. The weakening of Palestinian popular resistance allows the occupation to continue.

People here in Israel – they just don’t realise, they don’t have to deal with it. It is a different world for Israelis – but it will blow up.

There was the second intifada – nothing came out of that and the buses being blown up. Now the buses are not being blown up and still nothing comes out of it. Israelis are comfortable with the situation … people look the other way … people live with it.”

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Inoculating Against the Shock Doctrine

Jim Stanford made a decision, as an economist, to work within trade union and social justice settings rather than in academia or business. He is now an economist for Unifor, Canada’s largest private-sector trade union. His book, Economics for Everyone, which has been translated into six languages, has just been published in second edition. Here Jim discusses how political progressives need to learn critical economics if they want to understand our post-crash society.

‘The first edition of my book, Economics for Everyone, was published by Pluto Books in 2008. In Stanford EFEdescribing the evolution of modern neoliberal capitalism, it highlighted the fragility of extreme financialisation and speculation. Within just three months, that warning was ratified in spectacular fashion by the collapse of Lehman Brothers, and the onset of the worst financial meltdown in global capitalism since 1929.

Seven years later, Pluto has now released the second edition of Economics for Everyone (revised and updated, with new chapters on inequality, racism and discrimination, and the global financial crisis). Yet incredibly, the global economy is still writhing through the painful after-effects of that much-earlier meltdown. Indeed, the new book comes out just as the EU’s stubborn attempt to impose its failed austerity vision on Greece (and much of the rest of Europe) is reaching the breaking point: threatened both by democratic popular resistance (in Greece and elsewhere) and by economic common sense.

No-one can predict how the European drama will unfold next. Or how other after-effects of the 2008-09 crisis (such as the coming rise in U.S. interest rates) will shake still-fragile economies around the world. What is certain, however, is that globalised, financialised, polarised capitalism is incapable of finding the stable and efficient equilibrium fantasised by conventional neoclassical economists. Repeated outbreaks of credit-fueled, speculative exuberance are inevitably followed by panic, retrenchment, and recession. This will keep happening. We don’t know precisely when the next crisis will occur, nor its precise proximate cause. But we do know another crisis will occur, with 100 percent certainty. And we do know that the 99 percent of humanity who do not possess enough financial or business wealth to support themselves without actually working for a living, will be asked again to bear the brunt of the subsequent pain and dislocation.

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New Brutalism: Urban clearances in the post-creative city

Malcolm Miles discusses how our new cities have been reclaimed by the elite for the publication of his new book Limits to Culture: Urban Regeneration vs. Dissident Art. Miles LTC

‘In April 2015, The Guardian reported that protestors had occupied a community nursery in north London (23 April, p. 17). The nursery, on the Dollis Hill estate, was threatened with closure when Barnet Council proposed redevelopment of the estate in an £11 million deal. Oddly, perhaps, the report uses the term ‘regeneration’ to describe the scheme to which residents objected, which would involve the demolition of 400 council homes to make way for a mix of private and social housing. Similarly motivated occupations were reported at the Carpenters Estate in east London and the Aylebury Estate in Southwark. Previously, the Heygate Estate in Southwark had been systematically run down, used as the setting for films of urban dereliction, emptied of both tenants and dwellers who had purchased their flats from the council, and demolished. When I saw it a few months ago, there were cranes around the site, and towers of apartments intended for young professionals from the financial district. In what might be an unintended irony, a hoarding invites passers-by to become part of the scheme. I doubt any of the Heygate’s former residents could afford it. London, it appears, is where a new brutalism is being pioneered in the interests of rapidly rising property values and the greater glories of neoliberalism.

Local authorities have been stripped of powers over the years, have sold a high proportion of council flats and houses under the right-to-buy policy without being able to replace them, and have lost a large slice of their budgets since 2010. They now seem unable to meet their obligations – if they still feel they are obligations – to house the non-privileged. But there is more to it: the redevelopment sector has become an aggressive industry, no longer tied to social issues, nor after the 2007 crash bothering to mask its operations with culture in the form of public art. It threatens a change in urban conditions which it will be difficult – and very expensive – for any future government to reverse. This is the new brutalism. Those who, being low-class, live in what have become expensive post-codes will have to move. It is an old story: the poor are periphalised, and the city belongs to new elites.

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A very radical approach indeed

Derek Wall, whose new book Economics After Capitalism is out this month, places his analysis in context.

‘In 1845, local members of the Conservative Party selected George Hudson as their parliamentary Wall EACcandidate. They wanted support for two failing infrastructure projects – the Monkwearmouth Dock and the Durham and Sunderland Railway.  Hudson, also known as ‘The Railway King’, was duly elected MP for Sunderland. His financial wizardry had been used to build a rail line between the North East and London, a kind of HS2 of its day.  Hudson’s fall from grace however was swift. All seemed above-board – his rail projects paid generous dividends to shareholders and as a result he raised huge amounts of money for infrastructure projects.  However, a pamphlet entitled The Bubble of the Age claimed that instead of the dividends being derived from profit, they came from capital.  Hudson was essentially running what is now known as a Ponzi scheme.  New shares were issued and dividends paid from the money invested by previous shareholders.  Such fraudulent finance could continue as long as new railways generated accelerating profit for investors or new investors could be duped into buying more shares and their investment used to pay previous investors.

Hudson’s scheme was revealed, shareholders sold their stakes and his investments crashed. He was only saved from prison because of his position as an MP.  This relationship between political office, the celebration of market forces and a hidden reliance on speculation and fraud seems very contemporary, yet these events took place a century and a half ago.

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Capitalism: A History of Violence

Alexander Anievas and Kerem Nişancıoğlu introduce their new book How The West Came to Rule: The Geopolitical Origins of Capitalism, for the Pluto Press blog.

‘For the last two decades, challenges to the inequalities and injustices of capitalism have been casually dismissed by a status quo swimming in hubris. From Margaret Thatcher’s infamous proclamation that ‘there is no alternative’ to Francis Fukuyama’s declaration of the ‘end of history’, the study and critique of capitalism has been relegated to margins of public discourse. More recently, Mark Hunter argued that any attack on capitalism is ‘an attack on human nature’, thereby reaffirming the now centuries-old conceit that capitalism is as ‘natural and organic’ as living and breathing.

However, as stock markets came crashing down in 2008, the force of history reasserted itself in a series of revolutions, square occupations, anti-austerity protests, strikes, riots, and anti-state movements taking place from London to Ferguson, Athens, Cairo, Istanbul, Rojava, Santiago and beyond. Such movements have torn at the certainties of ‘capitalist realism’ and started sporadically – if inconsistently – challenging such long-held ‘common sense’ truisms and the power structures that bolster them.

Even after five years of relentless austerity and the continuing disorientation and weakness of much of the Left around the world, the fire ignited by the 2008 economic meltdown has yet to be extinguished. One need only be reminded of Syriza’s rise to power in Greece – arguably the most important electoral victory for a Left party in Europe in almost half a century. In Spain, Podemos presents the biggest challenge to the country’s two-party system since the end of the Francoist dictatorship four decades ago. As such, the hopes of capitalism’s ideologues for a ‘return to normality’ remain as elusive as ever.

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The Mythology of Work

Peter Fleming discusses the themes in his new book The Mythology of Work: How Capitalism Persists Despite Itself for Pluto Press.

‘According to a recent study, the average worker in England spends 36 days a year writing emails. Fleming TMOWLondon workers in particular receive around 9000 emails each year. This tells us much about the ritual of work in late capitalist societies. Only neoliberal capitalism could subvert the clever labor saving possibilities of an invention like email and use it to extend the working day ad infinitum. The tyranny of the workplace email is now so out of control that even the multinational corporation is starting to have second thoughts about its utility. Some French companies, for example, have banned its employees logging on in the evening. Similarly, a number of German firms automatically erase incoming emails when its employees are on holiday. And for good reason. Those last few days of vacation are often ruined by dark thoughts of the overflowing inbox awaiting us at the office. Capitalism understands its own contradictions here – the human body’s inability to fulfill the glorified ideal of homo oeconomicus without breaking down or making errors that hurt the bottom line. Hence it tries to moderate the 24-hour work ethic it has unleashed with the rise of neoliberal (un)reason; a task it often struggles with, as the death of Bank of America intern, Moritz Erhardt, demonstrated in 2013 – Erhardt died after working 72 straight hours.

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