The second Dutch Social Forum, which took place from May 19 till May 21, is part of the anti-globalization movement that protests unfair world trade and other aspects of the globalization that increase poverty (among some) in third world countries, but also among groups in the West, that strives for sustainable development, fights racism and discrimination, and in general supports suppressed people and their emancipation. All very noble causes, and, although I don't agree to their analysis all the time, I support these goals and think it is important that people come together to talk about initiatives and alternatives to counter the cynicism and injustice of what is going on - instead of just accepting it. Since the first World Social Forum
in 2001 in Brazil there have been many national social forums, and in October the third European Social Forum will be organized in London. The third World Social Forum in 2003 featured Noam Chomsky
as a prominent speaker, about whom I recently wrote on this blog
At the Dutch Social Forum there was a lot of attention to the Middle East. Among the 150 workshops and other activities, there were 8 dealing with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, all from a Palestinian perspective and many with Palestinian people (among which Mustapha Barghouti) attending to tell their stories about the daily hardship of the occupation. Robert Fisk was strikingly quoted in the program of the forum as saying: 'Journalistic neutrality is no longer relevant in the Middle East, journalists must have compassion for the victims in the first place'. Of course, in their view, the Israeli victims of terrorist attacks are not the victims of these terrorists, but of the Israeli government that provokes such attacks. There was also a workshop that denied the 'official version of 9-11', and wants to start a 'truth movement' in the Netherlands. Do they believe it was not radical Islamists who perpetrated the attacks, but the CIA or the Mossad or some other Western organization, with the aim of setting up the USA against Muslims and providing a justification to invade Iraq?
There was not a single workshop about Darfur, Tibet, Chechnya, or Western Sahara. Apparently these people are not very much oppressed, or - which is more likely - there is no Western country to blame for it. This attitude of 'blame ourselves and the West for all problems in the world' is deeply embedded in their approach to what is wrong with the world and what to do about it. There were also a number of workshops about the 'agitation against Muslims' and our very restrictive asylum policy. I agree to this 'blaming ourselves' attitude to a certain extent, and agree that the West is to blame for a lot of things, from our asylum policy and discrimination of ethnic minorities to Guantanamo Bay to the hardship posed on the Palestinians in the territories, but I also want to speak out against Muslim extremism and anti-Semitism or suppression of minorities in countries with a Muslim majority, the double standards of Muslims who were so angered about the Danish cartoons about the prophet while anti-Semitic cartoons appear on a daily basis in Arab media, or the statements of Iranian president Achmadinejad about the Holocaust. On the contrary, there was a workshop explaining that Iran doesn't want to make an atomic bomb and this is just an 'imperialist' invention of the USA and Israel!
Many people at these forums seem to think that the world is divided in good and evil, in victims and perpetrators, and as Muslims are victims of the more powerful West, they can't be perpetrators at the same time, or this must be caused by their oppression so they are not to blame. 'Terrorism is the weapon of the weak'.
One group, or to say more accurately, people, is wronged especially by this division in good and evil: the Jews. Being persecuted for 2000 years, they are on the side of the perpetrators now because of the occupation of the West Bank and the Golan Heights. I say the Jews and not the Israelis, as the right to self determination is a national right and the Jews as a people are denied this right by many on the left and in these forums, that celebrate the cause of so many other oppressed and persecuted peoples and their national aspirations. Many workshops on the Dutch Social Forum were organized by the Dutch Palestine Committee, which rejects a two state solution like the Geneva Accord
and supports full right of return of the Palestinian refugees and their descendants. A prominent member of the organization of the forum is the writer and journalist Mohamed Benzakour, who calls Jewish self determination racist and supports the European Arab League, that rejects Israel's existence and put anti-Semitic cartoons on their website as a reaction to the Danish cartoons about the prophet Mohammed.
Maybe the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is one of the best examples of the impossibility to divide people in good and bad. Yes, the occupation is bad, causes daily hardship to the Palestinian population, some settlers and soldiers are cruel to the Palestinians and get away with it unpunished, and no people deserve to live under foreign occupation, but the conflict is caused by Arab violence and refusal to make peace with Israel in the first place. The Palestinians, the darlings of so many on the left, were certainly on the wrong side during the 1930s and 1940s, as their most important leaders sided with the Nazis, and nowadays the Hamas charter
recalls the worst antisemitic propaganda, including claims that the Jews instigated both WWI and WWII to gain world control. How the left can be so blind to that, is still beyond me. Apparently Bush is not the only one who is good at denying unpleasant facts that disturb his worldview. Ratna Pelle
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Replies: 1 Comment
I wonder about that from another angle.
Is it possible that by not talking about Darfur, Tibet North Korea, and other places of large-scale men made death and oppression, these organizations are sidelining themselves even marginalizing?
Because the world is talking about those crisis, not as much as required by level of the humane tragedy there, but still public attention and awareness to the large scale of suffering does exist in the media and therefore probably in the general public. A scale that is several times that which occurs in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
This lack has to affect their credibility and influence among the general public.
Dvar Dea, Saturday, May 27th
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