(Reading time: 2 mins.)
The online publication Middle East Eye published on March 22nd an open letter from Palestinian political analyst As’ad Ghanem sharply criticising the Ukrainian President, Volodomir Zelensky, for the latter’s March 20th speech by Zoom before the Knesset, the Israeli parliament. The Palestinian academic’s criticism was, at base, entirely irrational.
As’ad Ghanem is a senior lecturer at the School of Political Sciences, University of Haifa. Ghanem’s theoretical work has explored the legal, institutional and political conditions in ethnic states. He has covered issues such as Palestinian political orientations, the establishment and political structure of the Palestinian Authority, and majority-minority politics in a comparative perspective. His books include Palestinian Politics after Arafat: A Failed National Movement (Indiana Series in Middle East Studies). Ghanem has initiated several empowerment programs for Palestinians in Israel.
Ghanem’s opening paragraph, though a denunciation of Zelensky’s speech, seemed to display a misapprehension of the conflict in the Ukraine and of Zelensky’s role there: Your recent speech before the Israeli Knesset was a disgrace when it comes to global struggles for freedom and liberation, particularly of the Palestinian people. You reversed the roles of occupier and occupied. You missed another opportunity to demonstrate the justice of your cause and the broader cause of freedom.
Any hope that Ghanem’s words were some kind of subtle attack on imperialism in Eastern Europe, an exposure of its false defence of national sovereignty, democracy and freedom, were swiftly expelled in reading the third and fourth paragraphs of his letter:
I am angry and sad that Russia is seeking to occupy your country and to crush the rights of the Ukrainian people to self-determination and freedom, and I believe that every possible support must be given to Ukrainians as they resist this barbaric aggression……
And while I admire your success in building a large international coalition to support your struggle against Russian aggression, I wish we as Palestinians could persuade the world to mobilise in a similar fashion, and force Israel to abide by international resolutions.
But Ghanem wants to show that although he may be a liberal, he is also an anti-imperialist. So he adds the following line to his third paragraph: At the same time, I reject the policies of the US and its Nato allies around the globe.
What an irrational position to hold! “The policies of the US and its Nato allies around the world” being enacted are precisely what is causing the current conflict in the Ukraine and it is those forces that are backing Zelensky and employing him in their contention with Russia.
Asad Ghanem’s plaintive criticism and appeal to Zelensky and — by implication — to imperialism exposes the ideological bankruptsy of the liberal critics of imperialism1. He is disappointed by Zelensky’s support for the murderous and racist rule of Israeli Zionism and sees it as somehow in contradiction with his position in the Ukrainian state’s conflict with Russia.
TO GAIN UNDERSTANDING, ASK BASIC QUESTIONS
The answers to a few simple questions would have disabused Ghanem and other pro-Palestinian liberal critics of imperialism of any confusion or illusion about the situation:
Which major imperialist military bloc is supporting the Ukraine in the current conflict? NATO.
Which imperialist state controls NATO at least since 1951? The USA.
Which power fundamentally props up and defends the Zionist state? US imperialism.
Even without any consideration of the reported Zionist state’s training and arming of the Ukrainian Azov, Zelensky’s stance towards Israeli Zionism is entirely in line with his alliances and Ghanem’s criticism completely irrational. If Zelensky is to be criticised politically for anything, it is for perhaps making his alliances so clear.
RATIONAL STANCE TOWARDS IMPERIALISM
Ghanem concludes his letter thus:
I know that most Palestinians are watching your stubborn struggle and wishing you victory over Russia’s brutal aggression. (Really? I sincerely doubt it – DB2). I also know that a Russian victory would be a great gift to Israel’s aggressive posture – a victory for its “Iron Wall” concept, which regulates its dealings with us until our complete defeat.
On the other hand, the struggle and victory of your people, even with the destruction of much of your country and the displacement of scores of Ukrainians, would give hope to other peoples struggling against oppression and erasure, rekindling our hopes for return and liberation. To this end, I urge you to stop supporting our oppressors.
The only rational stands towards imperialism are outright support or outright opposition — and the latter is the revolutionary position. Liberals want to criticise imperialism without being revolutionary, presumably because they feel more comfortable in the imperialist world than fear they would in a revolutionary one. They ask imperialism (which is what they usually mean by “the international community”) to remedy a situation here and there, a situation that usually only exists directly or indirectly because of imperialism.
Of course, imperialism regularly disappoints them but, like besotted lovers in an abusive relationship, they never learn, they never abandon their relationship but instead keep returning, asking their partner to behave better this time.
1Which is certainly no worse than that of the appalling stance of a major part of the Western Left
2“The two Arab Israeli (this is Zionist apartheid code for Palestinians – DB) parties chose to snub Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s speech to the Knesset on Sunday night, with only one Arab lawmaker out of their 10 MPs showing up. Joint List chief Ayman Odeh skipped the speech, as did the two other lawmakers from his Hadash faction, party officials said. A spokesperson for Odeh did not respond to a request for comment. “Our position is that NATO and its leader America imposed this war,” said Mansour Dahamsheh, the Hadash party’s secretary-general, in a phone call with The Times of Israel. https://www.timesofisrael.com/arab-israeli-mks-skip-zelenskys-knesset-speech-nato-imposed-this-war/
Text of As’ad Ghanem’s letter: https://www.middleeasteye.net/opinion/russia-ukraine-war-israel-palestine-zelensky-support-disgrace?utm_source=Twitter&utm_medium=Social&utm_campaign&utm_content=ap_qf0gnh7kqc
Zelensky’s speech to the Knesset: https://www.timesofisrael.com/full-text-ukraine-president-zelenskys-speech-to-israeli-lawmakers/
Palestinian Knesset MP’s attitude to Zelensky: https://www.timesofisrael.com/arab-israeli-mks-skip-zelenskys-knesset-speech-nato-imposed-this-war/
Israeli Zionist Government Minister’s reaction to Zelensky’s speech: “The war is terrible but the comparison to the horrors of the Holocaust and the final solution is outrageous” — https://www.jpost.com/israel-news/politics-and-diplomacy/article-701850