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‘No terrorism nostalgia among IS’

19 June 2007 - Social movements should distance themselves from the Internationale Socialisten (IS), because of their sympathy for violence and for conservative Islamists, wrote Koen Vink in an opinion article that caused a controversy. On behalf of the IS, Peyman Jafari responds.

See also: Social movement controversy over violence

Peyman Jafari*

We were highly surprised by the article by Koen Vink in Milieudefensie Magazine’s June issue and disappointed to find that this magazine is lowering itself to the level of Fortuynist [refers to adherents of the right-wing populist murdered in 2002 - Ed.] weblogs that fanatically fight the ‘Left Wing Church’ [an expression coined by Fortuyn to criticise what he saw as a left-wing establishment - Ed.].

One of the main objectives of the Netherlands Social Forum (NSF) and other platforms we are part of, is to promote joined activities and debates among organisations and individuals striving for a better world. That debate can and needs to be critical. The same applies to the debate on the strategy of the alterglobalisation movement. However, Vink’s article does not contribute to a constructive debate, but is a transparent attempt to create confusion and divisiveness through lies and insinuations. Using the same language as Bush (‘in this time of terrorism’) he warns ‘moderate’ organisations against a part of the alterglobalisation movement which supposedly propagates violence. His fatwa says: the alterglobalisation movement should make a clean sweep.

It would take too much space to counter all Vink’s lies. Behind his tirade against ‘violence’ and the IS, there is a certain idea of what the alterglobalisation movement should look like. In his vision, there is no room for ‘left-wing extremist clubs’ that offer fundamental criticism of capitalist globalisation and resist the ‘war on terrorism’. They would merely stand in the way of ‘moderate’ organisations and harm the ‘image of the movement’. We assume that the importance of this image lies in securing a place at the table with the government leaders and corporations. Describing the IS and others as ‘terrorism advocates’ is a disgusting way in which Vink tries to ‘reform’ (i.e. cleanse) the movement as he sees fit.


What characterises the alterglobalisation movement is the criticism of Neoliberal politics which place profit above people. After the attacks of 11 September 2001, the movement also strongly resisted the ‘war on terror’. The largest worldwide demonstration ever took place on 15 February 2003, when an estimated 35 million people around the world protested against the Iraq war. During the past years, the movement has grown into an important political factor, first of all as the result of a series of protests, and, in some places including Latin America, social uprisings. It is therefore misleading to equate the movement to the social forums, as Vink does. There are for example organisations, also in the Netherlands, that do not participate in the NSF, but do form part of the movement. The World Social Forum and the NSF are merely places where diverse organisations and individuals meet to learn from each other, plan actions and campaigns, and debate strategies and alternatives.


Vink thinks he can discern a ‘nostalgia for terrorism’ in this debate. He tries to criminalise protests such as the recent ones in Rostock against the G8 by speaking of ‘thugs’ hiding among peaceful protestors and he claims that the fence around Heiligendamm was ‘the creation of the alterglobalists themselves’. His proof for the ‘nostalgia for terrorism’ within the movement is a link at the website of the organisers of the Rostock demonstration to a website with a piece of music containing a quote of RAF-member Ulrike Meinhof. Does this prove that there is ‘nostalgia for terrorism’ within the movement, or rather for Vink’s attempt to link the movement to terrorism no matter what it takes? At the alternative summit during the G8 at Rostock and at the various social forums there have certainly been heated debates on whether and how power structures should be confronted. But violence and terrorism are not among the answers. Even during the protests at Rostock and elsewhere, where the police were present in a provocative way (for example by using infiltrators) we have constantly insisted that we should not let ourselves be provoked and choose a strategy of broadening our social appeal.


Vink also targets the Dutch movement and especially the IS, which would ‘sympathise with violence’ and with ‘terrorist organisations such as Hamas and Hezbollah’. Here as well, Vink is using his rich imagination. He quotes IS-member Miriyam Aouragh who at ‘Yassin’s commemoration’ said: ‘Resistance against the occupation is legitimate and deserves all possible support from the Netherlands’, and he himself draws the conclusion that ‘in that context, saying such a thing amounts to legitimising suicide attacks on innocent citizens, which are even more reprehensible than Israeli state violence. Aouragh wants ‘one democratic state’ for Jews, Arabs and Muslims (sic, that should read Christians): so that means exit Israel’. First of all, the IS protested against the liquidation of Sheikh Yassin (Hamas leader) by the Israeli state. One need not be a sympathiser of Yassin to protest against the liquidation politics of Israel, as many government leaders did at the time.

Secondly, the right for a people to resist in no means amounts to ‘justifying’ terrorism. Yes, we do believe that a people whose land is being occupied has the right to rise against the occupying forces, using armed force if necessary. This right is recognised by the UN and has its basis in article 1(4) of Protocol I of the Geneva Convention. For that reason, we not only raised our voices against the Israeli attacks on Lebanon last summer, but also for the right of the Lebanese to defend themselves against these attacks. The Lebanese Hezbollah was at the frontlines to repel the Israeli forces from Lebanese ground and thus earned its popularity among the large majority of the population. Our politics are miles apart from those of Hezbollah, but that may not be a reason to deny Hezbollah the right to defend their houses, schools and streets. Onze politiek ligt mijlenver van die van Hezbollah, maar dat mag geen reden zijn om Hezbollah het recht te ontzeggen op de verdediging van hun huizen, scholen en straten.

Thirdly, the political solution we offer for the occupation of Palestine is a very straightforward one. Peace without justice will never be durable. That means there has to be a return of Palestinian refugees, an end to the occupation and one democratic state for all the residents of the current Israel, Gaza and West Bank. Political constructions such as ‘Israel’ or whatever other state mean less to us than the happiness of the people who will have to live in such a construction. The South African Apartheid regime also disappeared when the black and white population obtained equal rights, and a new state came into being. Vink will have to explain to us why that would be unacceptable in the case of Israel. Contrary to what Vink wants us to believe, the IS are not the only ones to have such an opinion within the movement. For comparable points of view, see the articles of Noam Chomsky (who last summer visited the Lebanese Hezbollah), Walden Bello and Gilbert Achcar and the Declaration of Social Movements adopted at the various WSF’s.


Taking a stand for Muslims, who are being stigmatised these days by Wilders [a right-wing populist - Ed.] and his allies, seems to be a reason to be attacked by ‘progressives’ such as Vink. He refers to the Stop the Witch Hunt / Together Against Racism campaign the IS helped initiate after the murder of Van Gogh and accuses us of polarisation. What Vink fails to mention is that during the months after the Van Gogh murder, arson was committed at many Islamic schools and mosques and many people suffered threats and violence only because of their Islamic religion. Since that time, the Racism and Extreme Right Monitor speaks of a new racist trend against Muslims. For that reason, various people including GroenLinks’ Femke Halsema and D66’s Bert Bakker joined the Stop the Witch Hunt campaign at the time.

It should be one of the foremost principles of progressives to act against racism in all its forms, including anti-Semitism and Islamofobia. We are therefore proud to have gone against the grain by speaking up for the group that has been called ‘goat fuckers’ and ‘terrorists’ and have been denied jobs and work placements. We accept the consequence of having Wilders ask questions about us in Parliament and having Vink, in the same spirit, trying to stigmatise people with different opinions by going so far as to associate us with Al Qaeda. We do this in the conviction that progressive ideas will win terrain over fundamentalist currents, when the secular left succeeds in finding common ground with Muslims, based on the fight against wars and racism.


It is very remarkable to see someone who has played no role whatsoever in building the alterglobalisation movement now appearing as a deus ex machina not only to lecture other people, but to even prescribe who does or does not belong in the movement. This does not strike us as a constructive attitude. What for example if we would refuse to sit at the same table with Milieudefensie, because this organisation invites racist parties such as EEN.NL (‘Islamisation of the Netherlands’ = ‘the rise of the Nazi’s’) to its debates? If we take this course, the movement might fall apart into one big circus of sectarian arguing. That is exactly what Vink wants.

The alterglobalisation movement is facing challenges that are too important to accept Vink’s invitation. After years of massive protest, many ideas of the movement have found acceptance among large parts of the population. Meanwhile, the Neoliberal train is moving on and threatening the lives of millions of people and the future of our planet.

For example, climate change is an urgent problem that calls for immediate action to reduce CO2 emission drastically. The alterglobalisation movement cannot restrict itself to protest and needs new strategies to achieve real change. In the time ahead, we will have to invest energy in creating lively campaigns around the various issues of the movement and to engage in debates on how we can strengthen these campaigns and connect them. Like we did in the past years, we will continue to face these challenges along with others.

*on behalf of the board of the Internationale Socialisten


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