I'll probably skip the hate lesson

The conflict in Israel/Palestine and the Russian opposition
Kirill Medvedev 16 December 2023

The Russian liberal environment has traditionally supported Israel. This tradition is rooted in the history of the USSR - in the “campaign against cosmopolitanism”, in official support for Arab regimes, in the traumatic experience of intellectual socialization, associated, among other things, with everyday anti-Semitism. There is a characteristic of many post-Soviet liberals idea of ​​an almost ahistoricalconfrontation, in which, on the one hand, there is the humanistic and democratic “West”, on the other, the “East” represented by regimes playing on grassroots anti-Western, anti-Semitic ,anti-intellectual sentiment. Today's events in the Middle East can easily be fit into the same picture if desired, but the balance is gradually shifting. Which way and why?

For peace, against hatred. Sociologists believe that the war in Ukraine is causing increasing fatigue among Russians. At the same time, many are afraid that regime change will be a prologue to even greater instability, and therefore violence[i]. 56% of Russiansarein favor of peace negotiations with Ukraine. Such sentiments inevitably affect some opposition politicians who understand: in order to wrest a significant number of Russians from passive loyalty, one should not use an agenda of revenge and aggression. We need a course towards dialogue and reconciliation.

“I grieve for the ordinary residents of Israel and the ordinary residents of Gaza, who wanted to live, but fell into the millstones of war” - politician Yulia Galyamina (recognized as a foreign agent)writes about the “new normal”, in which there is no place for dialogue. “The lessons of the 20th century: that evil can be defeated with greater military power and more resource-based violence - no longer apply today. We need to look for other ideas for our fragile human world.”

Similarly another well-known oppositionist, actress Tatyana Lazareva (recognized as a foreign agent), speaks out. “It scares me that society condemns me if I have no hatred at all, towards at least one of the parties to any conflict. And I, obeying the pressure of society, must choose who I hate.”

Similar sentiments are on the left anti-war flank. Oleg Sheinwrites that “the side that initiates hostilities quickly loses sympathy and along with them international opportunities,” meaning in this case the terrorist attack by Hamas October 7th. “Can Israel raze Gaza and force its two million inhabitants to flee to Egypt? Could Iran acquire nuclear weapons and use them to kill millions of Israelis? These are bad questions. But they arise where uncompromising reigns. Where only your people are right, and your neighbors are enemies”[ii].

Deputy Yevgeny Stupin believes that responsibility for the current round of conflict lies with the leadership of Hamas, and not the entire Palestinian people: “Israel’s initial response was forced, but now we see a disproportionate use of force, disproportionate losses of civilians on the Palestinian side. We need to stop the bloodshed and look for peaceful paths in the interests of the two peoples.”

As follows from such statements, the value-based humanistic logic, approved by the majority, completely coincides with the practical one: the path to peace is the only profitable and rational choice for the country and its citizens.

New media
The war of propaganda inevitably gives rise to a demand for balanced information, which allows readers to feel respected by journalists and draw their own conclusions about what is happening. New media are trying to answer this request, like Kholod, Layout, Important Stories, which are not rooted in the previous opposition media environment, which thinks rather in the spirit of“information war” between Israel and Palestine. New media are having to develop their own ideas about how professionalism and journalistic objectivity can be demonstrated in covering complex, divisive conflicts. These days, alas, we see a lot of shocking news stories - persecution and murder of Jews and Palestinians in different countries, bans on speech, dismissals for political positions, attempts to absolutize the status of the victim by unscrupulous speakers on both sides. How to combine a request for objective information with the presence in the audience of one or two radical flanks, ready to “censor” the editors for any step to the side? If the new Russian media give their answer and insist on it, this will be a big step forward for the entire opposition, which is looking for an optimal counter-propaganda strategy today.

Feminist perspective and big ideologies
Feminism, which has gained strength in the Russian Federation in the last ten years, brings to the media, to activism, to politics its attention to the micro-level of any power conflicts, to the extent to which women and any vulnerable people become their victims. This approach most often works across the large ideological oppositions (“West-East”, “Europe-Asia”, “civilized world - barbarism”, “Soviet-anti-Soviet”), which are characteristic of post-Soviet liberal discourse.

Feminist anti-war resistance activist Daria Serenko (recognized as a foreign agent) is convinced that a much more in-depth analysis of the situation in Israel/Palestine is required - instead of common narratives and analogies that turn into a call for genocide of civilians of any nation or religion, as well as a justification “ collateral damage." “Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia have been extricated from the same xenophobic hell. The ultra-right and fundamentalists at the head of state are dangerous for everyone, and they commit aggression not only against “outsiders,” but always against those “our own” who are not included in their rigid framework.”

Serenko believes that peacekeeping mechanics are in a deep crisis, but it is the work on them that should be contrasted with the efforts of the Russian authorities, which are trying to use every military conflict for their own purposes. “We know, thanks to the investigation, that polarizing issues like to use the Kremlin troll factories to collapse movements and associations - and this can be seen in the example of the Women’s March in the USA, and how persistently unknown people with closed empty accounts demand activists/under posts to speak out position."

The decolonial agenda came into use by the opposition in connection with the war in Ukraine. Its range in the Russian-language media field ranges from reflection on the country’s imperial legacy and recipes for its political overcoming to forecasts about the inevitable collapse of the Russian Federation along the borders of national republics. However, those who take the problem of decolonization seriously and consistently inevitably come to rethink many things at the global level. This is both the historical role of the West as a colonialist and the history of the conflict in Israel/Palestine, in the explanation of which it is impossible to avoid discussions of “settler colonialism”. All this, at a minimum, greatly erodes the previous scheme, based, according toVladimir Metelkin, on “denial of officially declared Soviet values” and “acceptance of a civilizational hierarchy with the West at the top ".

Those dissatisfied with Putin's policies like to complain that it is leading the country to Asia, and in a certain negative sense this is true. “As a result of the “struggle for sovereignty” in the Duginy-Karaganov style, Russia found itself in deep, semi-colonial dependence on several southern countries,” the same Shein weightily notes. But from the common Eurocentric rhetoric there is literally one step to anti-migrant and xenophobic rhetoric. Not everyone takes this step, but the racist temptation is built into the very Western-centric worldview - you are especially convinced of this when you look at how yesterday’s denouncers of Russian aggression in Ukraine see themselves as the vanguard of civilizers on the Middle Eastern frontiers.

Alexandra Garmazhapova, founder of the “Free Buryatia” foundation (recognized as a foreign agent), believes that the war in the Middle East is also beneficial for Putin because which is splitting the anti-war movement in Russia. The journalist quotes the phrase of Israeli diplomat Arkady Milman about the “bestial Buryat-Putin instinctive hatred of animals” in relation to Hamas terrorists. “In addition, Muslims who have learned a lot about themselves these days will break away. For example, that they all turn out to be “savages”. ...These calls to “fence me with barbed wire” and “bomb me” take me back to my childhood - it was then that I heard adults on TV suggesting that this would be the way to solve the “Chechen issue.”

For the oligarchs of the 90s, the vast spaces of Russia were interesting mainly from the point of view of their privatization and profit-making. For the Putin elite, subordination and expansion of territories is a matter of survival of that Moscow-centric and Russo-centric project, which ultimately turned out to be a condition for the survival of the regime. But when and no matter how Putinism collapses, revenge on the previous liberal agenda is practically impossible. If the Russian opposition seriously expects to have power and influence in the future Russia, it will have to seriously decolonize itself. Accept and turn to the common good the fact that the country consists of different, but equally valuable in natural terms, territories that are inhabited by different communities, people of different cultures and, of course, different views, including on what is happening in the Middle East. There is no need to hierarchize all this diversity according to stereotypes about territorial and cultural proximity to the West; there is no need to try to impose the “correct line” regarding certain conflicts in the world. It is necessary to re-develop common fair rules of existence - through dialogue and the formulation of common interests.

“We’ll figure it out without the UN”
And about the general rules. All anti-war opposition agrees that one of the catastrophic results of Putinism and the war was a break with most international structures and conventions. Along with Russia’s expulsion from the Council of Europe, its participation in the ECHR, in the human rights convention, in the convention against corruption, etc., ceased. Meanwhile, Israel, due to its policies, is in extremely difficult relations with the UN and suffers constant criticism from human rights activists organizations. All this gives rise, accordingly, to enormous skepticism about international structures in the pro-Israel media sphere. The same applies to the International Criminal Court, which now has no jurisdiction over Israel, the Russian Federation, China, Iran, and the United States, which even allows the use of military force to free its citizens detained on ICC charges.

No matter how Israeli specifics are perceived, it is simply impossible for the Russian opposition to follow this isolationist trend - it so obviously leads to increased repression, to the defenselessness of any, and especially dissatisfied citizens before the state. The return of ties with international organizations, as well as the active participation of the future democratic Russia in strengthening them, is the only possible response of the opposition to the discourse about “sovereignty” that Putin’s propaganda is actively developing.

Analogies with Ukraine?
Supporters of the narrative about the global battle between democracy and authoritarianism/good and evil have no doubt about which side Ukraine and Israel stand on. But if we shift the perspective even a little, we will have to take into account, for example, the arguments of the Ukrainian left, who see the self-defense of Ukraine from the Russian Federation as an act of anti-colonial struggle and support the Palestinians’ right to self-defense on the same grounds. “Unlike the United States and its European allies, Ukraine has systematically supported UN resolutions condemning the illegal occupation of Palestinian lands, not without concern about the consistency of its own territorial claims to occupied Crimea,” writeswrites Daria Saburova. “The oppression of the Ukrainian and Palestinian peoples has similarities: it is the occupation of our lands by states possessing nuclear weapons and overwhelming military power, which ridicule UN resolutions and international law, putting their reasons above any diplomatic dialogue.”

In the case of Ukraine, calls for a ceasefire on both sides can be perceived as a concession to Putin, who, in fact, would not mind “selling” at least some territorial acquisitions to his voters who are tired of the war on the eve of the presidential elections. There is another opinion - the Russian regime does not need peace under any circumstances, because the end of the war will force the return of masses of fierce soldiers from the front, will increase the attention of Russians to internal problems and will otherwise destabilize the situation. Be that as it may, in the Russian-Ukrainian war the initiator is obvious - even for those who do not sympathize with Euromaidan and sympathize primarily with the residents of the part of Donbass who suffered from the ATO, it is difficult to deny that internationalinternationalinternationalinternational a> either side of the conflict.do not support the conflict began with the annexation of Crimea in February 2014. Our anti-war opposition has yet to deal with this problem. But in the case of the distant Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which has no direct relation to Russia and goes back 100 years, for an outsider, it must be admitted that everything is and will be “ambiguous.” Therefore, the position of reconciliation and compromise already seems much more convincing today - of course, for those who do not belong to the rather small radical lobbies on both sides. This is what statistics show - 66% of Russians

Contours of a common progressivist agenda
Yes, we need to be extremely careful when comparing different armed conflicts. But one or another universalization of what is happening is inevitable; it is already happening from different sides. Behind the battle of armies and propaganda, the contours of the progressivist agenda are discernible. This is an anti-colonial and humanitarian human rights agenda. An agenda in which external encroachment on territorial integrity is unacceptable, collective responsibility is unacceptable, guarantees of the return of refugees and guarantees of all rights of citizens, regardless of their origin, are mandatory. It doesn’t matter whether we are talking about a future Palestinian state, a de-occupied Ukraine, Israel, Russia, or any old or new states and autonomies that will inevitably emerge. No state should have enough sovereignty to violate the rights of its own and other people's citizens, referring to the behests of ancestors and sovereign traditions. Only through joint efforts can we fight global poverty and the climate crisis. And if such an agenda seems too good and therefore unrealizable in the current conditions, then it is the fight for it that can turn the Russian opposition into an independent and sought-after actor in Russia and in the world.

[i] Conclusion based on PSlab research and the Chronicles project (forthcoming publication)
[ii] https://bloknot.ru/politika/palestino-izrail-skaya-vojna-v-svete-gegel-yanskoj-filosofii-1181996.html



Kirill Medvedev: Poet, translator, founder of the Free Marxist Publishing House, political activist, vocalist and guitarist of the Arkady Kots group

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