Walking fine lines

IssueJuly to August 2006
Comment by Ippy

Did the perpetrators who kidnapped Israeli Defence Force soldier Cpl Gilad Shalit anticipate the collective punishment that would be meted out to Palestinians? Perhaps they hoped it would provoke a greater uprising, or that their (changing) demands would actually be met. Or perhaps the consequences were in fact unseen.

It has been argued that the kidnapping was in reprisal for the assassination of Hamas government official Jamal Abu Samhadana; whatever, the fact is that the Israeli government's disproportionate and illegal military response to the event is impacting heavily on the Palestinian population.

Clarity of purpose

Internationally the peace movement has the measure of the Israeli state and its tactics, but the strategies and tactics of the militant Palestinian groups are less clear. In trying to understand what outcomes are hoped for when different actions take place it helps to know what the overall strategy is - and this is where the marked tensions and divergence of views between Palestinian political, military and paramilitary groups really muddy the waters.

To any relatively casual follower of the conflict, recent actions appear chaotic, tit-for-tat (with one tit being a hell of a lot more powerful than the other) and rather non-strategic.

Nonviolent struggle

While Israel should rightly be condemned for its hyper-violent behaviour and the Palestinian people be supported in their struggle for self-determination, the peace movement should not remain uncritical of the political hierarchies and military elements of the Palestinian struggle. In carefully doing so, it may lend support to those within Palestinian society who are working for practical but unarmed change.

Writing in Peace News in 2004, Palestinian pacifist Zoughbi Zoughbi commented that “Through its daily provocations Israel tries to push us to use greater violence, precisely because the Israeli government is well equipped to deal with violence. It seems threatened more by thoughts of peace and nonviolence than by war [...] With a Palestinian commitment to nonviolent struggle, there is no way that Israel can maintain the status quo and obliterate the Palestinian national identity.”

Still queer, still here

Apparently, in the early 1970s a group of militant queens from Bethnal Green stormed 5 Caledonian Road. At the time, the building was home to the Gay Liberation Front. The story goes that, outraged at the bureaucratising of the GLF, the queens burst in and proceeded to mess up the Front's paperwork.

More than 30 years on and the co-option of the radical LGBT movement seems almost complete: lifestyle-obsession, getting “married”, joining the churches and the military. Yes, capitalism identified and exploited the market and god and the state are also open for trade.

Hello sailor

In June the Pink Paper ran no fewer than three pieces in one issue which uncritically related to the military. From a cheesy “hello sailor” voxpop on what people think about navy personnel participating in this year's Pride march, to an online poll which ran something like, “If you were forced to join the armed forces, which service would you choose?”.

Whatever people may make of him, at least Peter Tatchell was clear in his analysis when he wrote that “our involvement in the military system denies to others the liberation we demand for ourselves” in We Don't Want to March Straight (Casell 1995. Review: PN2395).

Spirit of resistance

However, all is not lost. Responding to the near-complete mainstreaming and the uncritical approach of the “lifestyle”-focused popular gay press, groups of radical queers, prepared to take direct action, have (re)emerged in recent years. Perhaps it started with the Lesbian Avengers, but now groups and networks like Queers Without Borders, Anarquist and Queer Mutiny are broadening the scope of issues and style of action.

The Gay Liberation Front is long-gone, but the DIY spirit of queer resistance - as well as some nifty outfits, challenging events, and thought-provoking `zines - continues.