‘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
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
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.
UNITY IN DIVERSITY
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.
FROM PROTEST TO CHANGE
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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