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Dr Uri Gordon teaches Environmental Ethics, Social analysis of the environment, and Environmental Politics at The Arava Institute for Environmental Studies (Affiliated with Ben-Gurion University).




Israel, Anarchists Against the Wall Fanzin for the US tour - ANARCHISM IN PALESTINE AND ISRAEL by Uri Gordon

Date Thu, 19 Feb 2009 10:46:44 +0200

Anarchism has been a political undercurrent in Palestine and Israel for a century,
appearing in three disconnected waves: the libertarian socialism of the early Kibbutz
communes, the publishing and cultural activities of Yiddish-speaking immigrants, and
contemporary Israeli anarchism. In Palestinian society there are individual sympathizers
but no organized anarchist movement, with Marxist parties such as Popular Front for the
Liberation of Palestine leading the secular left wing. Yet the first Intifada (1987-1989)
drew widespread support from anarchists as a grassroots uprising involving tax refusal,
general strikes, urban confrontation and the establishment of underground schools and
mutual aid projects. Since 2000, Israeli and international anarchists have been leading
solidarity campaigns in Palestine.


Anarchist ideas circulated widely in the second and third waves of Jewish immigration to
Palestine, and were central to the formation of the early Kibbutzim. The first twenty
eight communes were founded in 1910-1914, following labor disputes and strikes at the
colonies established during the first wave of immigration. The founders, mostly young and
unmarried, built the communes on principles of collectivism, equality and self-management,
aspiring to create a free socialist society of Jews and Arabs in Palestine.

Anarchism was highly influential in the communards' party Hapoel Hatzair (The Young
Worker), whose paper included articles by and about Proudhon and Kropotkin. Aharon David
Gordon (1856-1922), a forestry clerk who immigrated as a laborer to Palestine aged 47,
became a spiritual leader of Hapoel Hatzair and was very close to anarchism. Influenced by
Hassidic mysticism and the writings of Nietzsche and Tolstoy, Gordon promoted collective
manual labor as a key to Jewish regeneration, and spiritual liberation through creativity
and reconnection to nature. A staunch anti-militarist and pacifist, Gordon spoke nothing
of a Jewish State and called for respect and cooperation with Arab peasants.

Joseph Trumpeldor (1880-1920), an immigrant soldier who organized early Jewish defence
forces, was influenced by Kropotkin and Tolstoy and declared himself "an anarcho-communist
and a Zionist".

Inspired by Trumpeldor, Gdud Haavoda (the Labor Battalion) was formed as a decentralised
commune, whose bands of construction workers sought to establish a General Commune in

Gustav Landauer had a direct influence on members of Hashomer Hatzair (The Young
Guardsman), an immigrating Zionist-socialist youth movement who founded a federation of
new Kibbutzim in the third wave of immigration from 1919. Its members made explicit
references to anarchism in their calls for communal independence, egalitarian
relationships, direct democracy and spiritual renewal.

In the later 1920s anarchist tendencies in Palestine weakened, with the influx of private
capital into the country and increasing economic and political control of the Kibbutzim by
the central Jewish institutions in Palestine dominated by Ben Gurion's party Mapai.


After the State of Israel was established, anarchist circles formed among the
Yiddish-speaking survivors of Nazism who immigrated to the country. The earliest was led
in |Tel-Aviv by Eliezer Hirschauge (1911-1954), formerly an exponent of anarchism among
Chassidic youth in Warsaw and author of a history of Polish anarchism. Activities took an
upswing with the arrival in 1958 of prolific anarchist theorist, critic and translator
Abba Gordin (1887-1964). Gordin was a key member of the Moscow Anarchist Federation,
and from 1925 lived in New York where he published the literary-philosophical review
Yiddishe Shriften (1936-1957). In Israel Gordin founded the anarchist circle ASHUACH
(Agudat Shocharei Chofesh, "Freedom-Seekers Association"), who had a large meeting-hall
and a library of classic anarchist works in Yiddish, Hebrew, and Polish. ASHUACH had
approximately 150 members and hundreds attended the lectures it organized. Gordin edited
the association's monthly review in Yiddish and Hebrew, Problemen/Problemot. The review
largely played down revolutionary propaganda in favour of philosophical and literary
essays, and was especially interested in the spiritual roots of anarchism and in classical
Jewish and current Yiddish literature. Gordin also regularly corresponded with prominent
Yiddish anarchist publications in New York (Freie Arbeiter Stimme) and Buenos Aires (Dos
Freie Wort).

After Gordin's death, Problemen was edited by Shmuel Abarbanel until 1971, when Joseph
Luden (1908-) assumed editorship and affiliated the review (now printed only in Yiddish)
with a publishing house that released over fifteen Yiddish books and pamphlets of fiction
and poetry. ASHUACH came to a halt in the 1980s as the old anarchists passed away, and the
final (165th) issue of Problemen (December 1989) was the last Yiddish anarchist periodical
publication in the world.


Anarchist tendencies were present in the Israeli anti-militarist and anti-capitalist Left
since its emergence, following the 1967 occupation of the Palestinian Territories and
parallel to the wave of radicalism in Western countries. Libertarians were active in the
Israeli Socialist Organization (1967-1977), which issued the paper Matzpen and cooperated
with the Israeli Black Panthers - a militant movement of second-generation Jews from North
African countries. During and after 1973 war The Black Front - Trippy Anarchist Group was
active from a commune in Tel Aviv, producing flyers and pamphlets including Liberation
News and the anti-militarist comics Freaky. Radical student cells were active in Tel-Aviv
(1975-6) and Jerusalem (1986-7). Protests against the first Lebanon war saw the release of
subversive propaganda by The Committee for Public Health (1982-1987), and the founding of
the Israeli chapter of War Resisters International by Hungarian-Israeli anarcho-pacifist
Yeshaayahu Toma-Schick (1939-2004).

From the late 1980s, anarchism was central to the politicized section of the punk
movement and to army refusal and evasion during the first Palestinian Intifada. The
Israeli Anarchist Federation (1991-1993) held demonstrations against police brutality and
Israel's first McDonalds outlet, put on benefit concerts, and later spawned the militant
animal rights group Anonymous. Direct action and propaganda groups such as the Isra-hell
Collective and the Anarchist Brigade of the Northern Galilee released photocopied
political magazines including "It's All Lies" and "The War of Words". Tel Aviv's Left Bank
club was founded to provide a space for radical punk shows, talks and exhibitions.

The movement grew quickly in the late 1990s with the anti-capitalist environmental group
Green Action and the direct action campaign against the construction of the Cross-Israel
Highway, which connected issues of pollution, open spaces, Arab land rights and
government-corporate collusion. Inspired by the major anti-capitalist protests in London
and Seattle at the end of 1999, Israeli activists began organizing Reclaim The Streets
parties and Food Not Bombs stalls, and founded the Salon Mazal infoshop and the
Israeli Independent Media Center (Indymedia).

The second Intifada reinvigorated Israeli radicals' anti-occupation and Palestinian
solidarity efforts. The network Ta'ayush (Arab-Jewish Partnership), though not nominally
anarchist, organized informally to break sieges and bring supplies into Palestinian towns,
as well as defend farmers from settlers and soldiers as they cultivated their land. From
the summer of 2001, many international anarchists arrived in Palestine with the
International Solidarity Movement (ISM), accompanying Palestinian non-violent actions to
tear down military roadblocks and break curfews, and serving as human shields and live
witnesses during the Israeli offensive of spring 2002. The ISM was weakened following the
killing of its volunteers Rachel Corrie and Tom Hurndall in the Gaza Strip, and a
repressive Israeli campaign including raids on its flats and offices, deportations and
denials of entry.

From spring 2003, Israeli anarchists began to organize autonomously to cooperate with
Palestinians and internationals, particularly in the campaign against the construction of
the Segregation Barrier in the West Bank. Invited by farmers from the village of Mas'ha,
the group built a protest and outreach camp on their land, about to be confiscated for the
fence. The camp lasted four months and led to the founding of the group Anarchists Against
the Wall. Anarchists remain active in the West Bank and inside Israel, and took part in
the opposition to the second Lebanon War in August 2006 and the Gaza War in January 2009.
(From the Wiley-Blackwell Encyclopaedia of Revolution and Protest, 2009)


Goncharok, Moshe (2002), Ashes from our Fires: A Historical Survey of the Yiddish
Anarchist Movement (Jerusalem: Problemen). In Russian Horrox, James (2008), A Living
Revlution: Anarchism in the Kibbutz Movement (Oakland: AK Press) Massey, David (ed.,
2002), It's All Lies: Leaflets, Underground Press and Posters ­ The Fusion of Resistance
and Creativity in Israel (Tel Aviv: APICC)

See: http://awalls.org

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