Editorial note: This opinion piece, originally published in Arabic in the Palestinian socialist outlet Al-Carmel, tries to focus on the dangers of “fake friends” amid the anti-imperialist struggle, especially in the case of the anti-colonial struggle in Palestine, where certain currents of the left and feminism are weaponized against the struggle. However, Orinoco Tribune does not believe that all Marxists are enemies of the Palestinian struggle, nor do we believe that all Western Marxists are enemies. Although we do not agree with all Marxists, by any means, we encourage constructive criticism of all currents of Marxism and of Marxists.
By Sedki Ashour – December 19, 2023
Criticizing patriarchy is a facsimile of rebellion, whereas criticizing Israel is not.
In his discussion of the causes of the Arab Spring, writer Amer Mohsen talks about relationships with unclear allies and how it is more dangerous than the relationship with the clear enemy. The clear enemy will directly offer you to become a vassal of the US and Israel, but the unclear ally is the one who will provide you with a space in civil society, research, academic, and alternative media institutions—some even ostensibly hostile to imperialism—in a state with the largest US bases in the region (Qatar). This is the crisis of the “social justice left,” whether in the Arab world or in the West, which is where the thesis of intersectional feminism originally emerged based on building an alliance of the oppressed, led by the white middle-class feminists in the West.
Some claim that the large movement demanding a ceasefire in Gaza is a success for intersectional feminism. But this claim is nothing more than riding a wave that is, in reality, a phenomenon difficult to explain. Not all opponents of the genocide—orchestrated by the national security state in the United States and Western Europe, which support “Israel“—are from the social justice left. Rather, we are talking about a large spectrum from the far left to the far right: poor blacks and poor whites, immigrants, haters of the Republican and Democratic parties, American Muslims opposed to the policies of the social justice left, former US Marines, international relations realists, critics of Western policy in the Ukraine war, and former protesters against the Iraq war, all came out in rejection of the policies of Joe Biden, the “intersectional feminist” president.
Outside the context of war and political work on the street to stop it, if I were to advise any Arab student in the US about the choices of the political space they want to spend time in, I would tell them to choose the traditional Marxists (clear enemy) over the social justice left (unclear ally). Traditional US Marxists have a witty theory about the causes of the death of the left: after 1968, the new US and Western left emerged and became immersed in Vietnam and the Third World movements and social justice movements of race and gender and forgot to build socialism in the West, and instead built neoliberalism. Based on this, the traditional Marxist will not have a friendly smile when talking with a Palestinian, but will come and say coldly: if it is proven to us that your case does not bring the world closer to achieving socialism, then we do not care about you. On the contrary, as long as there is no Leninist party ruling the United States, we will help return you, you in the Third World, to the trap of neocolonialism.
This clear and honest (and sometimes rude) position is contrasted with the ambiguity hidden behind the smiles of left-wing social justice activists: You, the Palestinian, are oppressed like us. It is true that the people of southern Lebanon are similar to you in their figs, olives, culture, neighborhoods, and villages. But believe us, we who reside in the environment of sociology departments in US universities are closer to you than them. We are oppressed and marginalized because of our race, gender, sexuality, and even our body weight. And since we are the best intellectuals of the First World, we have an international—and maternal—duty to adopt your case, you oh-so-romantic Palestinian victim. Additionally, our duty to defend the oppressed leads us to search for your oppressed, you are not a pure victim, the Palestinian, but there are even purer victims living under you, oppressed by your patriarchy based on their gender, sexuality, and even race.
This unclear ally appeared after 2016, in the era of the spread of the liberal-left ideology of social justice in the West. It spread not only among civil society organizations working on the ground with the most marginalized in society but also in the mainstream public debate, in the press and media, in Hollywood, in the administrative regulations of the human resources departments of multinational companies, in the government, in the army, and even in intelligence. This cultural revolution, of course, happened in response to the arrival of an outwardly sexist, racist, misogynistic, male president to the seat of power in the United States.
Alan Sokal, a Jewish mathematician who supports Palestinians, argues that the political economy of social justice movements is comprised of three categories within the professional administrative class that spans the public, private, and non-governmental sectors. First, the category of administrators who want to control the language and behavior of employees within the administrative institution. Second, the category of career climber who uses feelings of social justice—as some would use religious or national feelings—in order to ascend the socio-economic ladder. And third, the category of the graduate students and academics, job seekers who want to distinguish themselves from the working class environment, so they take an ethically condescending position on social justice issues.
The era that began with the election of Donald Trump as president of the United States and ended after the Al-Aqsa Flood was the golden era of social justice movements. It was the ideal era for taking moral positions that might not have been easy everywhere and at all times but were exceedingly easy within their bubbles. This was the era that popularized the transformation of the Palestinian struggle into a “social justice cause” between oppressor and oppressed “adversaries,” thus ripping it from the context of colonial genocide.
It was the era in which the legal definition of an apartheid system, a system which grants one group of people the right to postpone the genocide of another people and demand their gratitude for this postponement, was also transformed into an issue of ordinary “racism” by “intolerant Israelis.”
It was during this time that bizarre arguments emerged indicative of the megalomania of the heads of the social justice movement. For instance, when a Palestinian “vegetarian” activist and president of an animal rights NGO appeared in Western media declaring that there should be justice not just for Palestinian humans but also for Palestinian animals, insects, and all “conscious creatures” in Palestine.
This megalomania exhibited excessive optimism, evident in slogans like “No Free Homeland Without Free Women” and “Palestine for All of Us” (related to gender diversity). It was an optimism embodying blind faith in the ability of the NGO administrative elite to defeat Trumpism, Israeli patriarchy, and Palestinian paternalism; equating the three in their oppression. This optimism is met with pessimism regarding paternalism, disregarding that it does not necessarily mean honor killings. Paternalism, in other contexts, might be the feeling of orphanhood when recalling that Edward Said, a figure akin to a father, has been absent for twenty years.
This optimism leads us to refrain from criticizing a fundamental enemy on the list of enemies, simply because they seem to be kind and feminist, or because they are a complex genderless being, or merely because they are a “colleague” in the professional administrative class. This enemy we are discussing is the gang of Europeans who have been sitting on our chests for decades—excluding the genuine sympathizers—those who want to “teach” us civilization and humanity, and see the Arab woman not as human and equal, but through a pathological lens due to their belief in European moral superiority.
Because of these characteristics, the excessive optimism of intersectional feminism did not prepare it for the monumental transformations in the fields of culture, politics, and media in the West following the Al-Aqsa Flood Operation. Instead, the US and European professional administrative classes decided to either expel Palestinians from being included under the umbrella of “intersectional human rights” or to move away from the ideology of social justice altogether. This excessive optimism was not prepared for the bloody Olympics of Western media. It was not prepared for the fact that the Palestinian woman killed by Palestinians is a “suitable” victim for the West, whereas the Palestinian woman killed by Israelis is an “unsuitable” victim, and the Palestinian man killed by Israeli women soldiers is a sub-human prey that is acceptable to hunt.
This excessive optimism was not prepared for the day when our fathers and brothers would resist in the face of bombs and aircraft carriers, or the day when fathers will be buried under the rubble, or when husbands remain alive to receive news of the extermination of their families while they work as doctors and journalists.
The excessive optimism of intersectional feminism is reminiscent of the optimism in the novel The Handmaid’s Tale by Canadian author Margaret Atwood, which tells the story of the collapse of the United States and the construction of a patriarchal dystopia called The Republic of Gilead. This book assumes that the US was good and free before the Gileadians overthrew it, and it is a narrative that reflects the fears of white middle-class feminists losing their place in late capitalist society. In the world of this story, both neighboring Canada and feminist Britain impose sanctions on the Gileadians and issue arrest warrants for Gilead leaders for committing crimes against humanity. Atwood here indulges in her optimism in Western values and its ability to fight oppressors and hold them accountable for social justice. For Atwood, even if the US descends [into totalitarianism], the Western middle-class hero who has the correct principles will not.
What if we said that the real Gilead is more terrifying than the fictional Gilead? What if we said that the real Gileadians are the Netanyahu-Biden axis, their Canadian and European allies, and the professional administrative elite following their orders? What if we said that the United States Congress is a theocratic institution protected by men and women of one of the two religions, evangelical Zionism or secular liberal Zionism, which is based on the doctrine of Western civilizational superiority in all aspects, even in the feminist aspect? What if it is not the Republic of Gilead that is being sanctioned by the “free world” but rather the one that imposes sanctions on others? What if we said that these arrogant Gilead leaders have participated in the war of extermination against Palestinians in Gaza?
In 2019, the year that the force of intersectional feminism emerged in Palestine, I attended one of the meetings of the gender support programs in Ramallah. During this meeting, the European director of one of the international institutions took the floor and warned us with contempt and superiority: “Palestinian men must stand with us in supporting women or stand aside.” Today we are witnessing the dire genocidal consequences after a group of Palestinian men in the resistance factions rejected the Europeans’ orders to stand aside.
Translation: Orinoco Tribune
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