Tuesday, November 6, 2012


(I wish to thank Conor McCarthy for drawing my attention to the Bromwich article which is my final link)

Issue 175 of the journal Radical Philosophy (September/October 2012) includes a review by Luis A. Fernandez of a book called Anti-Security, edited by Mark Neocleous and George S. Rigakos. Although I have not yet read the book, Fernandez’s account suggests that its first two chapters, Security as Pacification by Neocleous and To Extend the Scope of Productive Labour: Pacification as a Police Project by Rigakos, might inspire a productive reframing of one aspect of the Israel/Palestine imbroglio: the conventional discourse around “peace”.

Fernandez paraphrases Neocleous as claiming “that the capitalist state constantly and intentionally (re)produces insecurity and instability. In turn, this instability gives rise to the politics of security, as the state uses this to gain legitimacy.” Rigakos elaborates: “security, expressed through the police, involves the ‘manifestation of brute force both legislatively and through what we would call pacification.’” Neocleous clarifies that this “refers to a broader set of practices aimed at inducing submission while establishing ‘peace’ and ‘tranquillity’ in a given territory… Neocleous finds that pacification first appears under colonialism to keep colonial subjects under control through the ‘centralization of violence and bureaucratization and discipline of standing armies.’”

Bells will be ringing for all those who have any involvement with the Palestine issue. In the light of the above, reread ICAHD activist Jeff Halper’s famous framing of Israel’s persecution of the Palestinian people as a “matrix of control”, involving “the use of violence to maintain control over the matrix -- the military occupation itself, including massive imprisonment and torture; the extensive use of collaborators to control the local population; pressures exerted on families to sell their lands; the undemocratic, arbitrary and violent rule of the Military Commander of the West Bank and the Civil Administration. What Israelis know of this system they justify in terms of ‘security.’”

The security in question, as we know, is always Israel’s security – when did you last hear a mainstream American or European politician refer to the security needs of the Palestinians, although under international humanitarian law they are a “protected people”? Within Israel itself, of course, the primary insecurity is a function not of Palestinian “terror” (as is conventionally claimed) but of the rampant neo-liberalism to which all mainstream political parties are addicted. Last summer’s “occupation” of Tel Aviv’s Habima Square and the race riots against migrants in the same city may be traced back to this source.

“Pacification”, however, is reserved for the Palestinians. In one obvious sense, it would be quite easy to read the above Halper quotation as describing a “matrix of pacification”. However, I think it is more interesting – and this is the reframing I’m driving at – to see the standard Israeli (ab)use of the word “peace” as merely a euphemism for pacification in the sense defined by Neocleous and Rigakos.

Thus the calamitous (for the Palestinians) “peace process” ushered in by the Oslo Accords could be redefined as a “pacification process”. Ultimately, the Zionist vision of a conclusion to this process is a helpless “demilitarised Palestinian state” with purely cosmetic “trappings of sovereignty” and without territorial contiguity, side by side with a US/EU-backed hegemonic Israel, bristling with arms, and arrogating to itself the right to pounce on its helpless neighbour whenever it decides to feel threatened.

Here is Maj-General Aharon Ze’evi Farkash, former chief of Israel’s military intelligence, on the “demilitarisation” of the proposed Palestinian state (or Bantustan):

The State of Israel’s requirement that a prospective Palestinian state be demilitarized has been in effect since the 1993 Declaration of Principles (DOP), which served as the basis
for the Oslo process and the establishment of the Palestinian Authority (PA). However,
the term “demilitarization,” as it is commonly understood (i.e., a limitation on war materials),is too narrowly defined and does not sufficiently cover the full range of Israel’s security needs. The broader concept includes preventing the development of symmetrical and asymmetrical military threats against Israel – including conventional warfare, terrorism and guerilla warfare – from and via the territory of the PA and a perspective Palestinian state. Demilitarization, then, is a means to safeguarding Israel’s security, not an end in itself.
Under these conditions, it is clear that the “Palestinian state” will be insecure but pacified, while the state of Israel will be secure and at peace (internal upheavals excepted).
A liberal Zionist organisation like Peace Now could be re-baptised Pacification Now, while those whom ultra-Zionists like Alan Dershowitz defame as “enemies of peace” could be more accurately called “enemies of pacification”, an entirely honourable description.
The state of Israel, resolutely backed by its US and EU allies, seeks to “create a desolation and call it peace” (in the Roman historian Tactitus’s resounding phrase). Let us henceforth call this desolation by its proper name: pacification. True peace is the opposite, entailing justice and an attention to the legitimate security needs of all – without discrimination.

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