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January 26, 2008


Goodness me what a blog!

Keep up the good work.
Loved your old school "joke" on Mondoweiss blog.



So, Habash was Christian, Arab, secular, and nationalistic. I'd have thought he was an Islamist, a killer after Osama bin Laden's own heart.

I expect that Israelis might be more open to the idea of accepting Arabs as human beings if the entire Arab MUSLIM world would first repudiate what Sayyid Qutb wrote about Jews in his opus, "In the Shade of the Qur'an," not to mention the Palestinian Authority’s ongoing indoctrination of its public concerning wiping out Jews — " the defective, corrupt, descendants of monkeys and pigs," the problem, of course, being that this PA slander is rooted in the Qur'an, Mohammad's supposedly infallible and forever binding revelation from Allah via Gabriel via scribes writing in Baghdad more than a century after Mohammad's death.

Come to think of it, there will be no peace in the Levant until toxic and unreformable Islam, the measure of Mohammad's astonishing perversity, is consigned to the ash heap of history, to borrow a familiar Trotskyism. I'm not holding my breath. Neither are the Israelis or the folks over at Angry Arab.

Ah, the trolls emerge. I wondered when they would show up. Nice to see you, too, Igor. What a lovely person you seem to be!

Funny how these Muslim-haters will take any excuse to go off on their rants, even the death of a secular Christian Arab.

Oh, Leila, I don't hate Muslims. I think they have been seriously duped by a con man, in the samwe way that Mormons have been duped by Joseph Smith, the main difference being that Smith didn't order the deaths of his "infidel" enemies.

Again, aren't you the one who couldn't quite get your mind around Habash and the PFLP's rationalizations for violence directed at the innocent, folks who, as you so delicately put it, "ended up murdering civilians at random?" Maybe I should brand you a Christian-hater for airing the man's dirty laundry?

By the way, instead of calling me a "troll," you might have addressed the PA's loathsome anti-semitic "rants," but then, baiting and switching may be your favorite ploy.

Incidentally, Leila, I am completely in favor of a sovereign and viable Palestinian State that coexists in peace with the State of Israel. If this is not what the PFLP wants, then I'm not your enemy...

Leila, I was blown away by this post. You're really on a roll. It's just so powerful & the vision so true. I can't begin to tell you how much I admire what you said.

Then Igor (the name reminds me of the monster character in Young Frankenstein & our trollish Igor fits the bill entirely) goes & tries to spoil the party. Let's ignore him shall we?

I'd ban him entirely if it were my blog. But you're entirely generous as usual even to those who do so little to merit such courtesy.

dear leila,

the contradiction that you pose when you write about al-hakim ("the doctor" or "the sage"), george habash's nom de guerre, is that you seem to be in agreement with the vision of the society that he wanted to help create, but with all due respect, you don't fully recognize how to go about creating it.

all history, and all of the present, must be seen in the context of class contradictions and class conflict. habash understood that to experience the beauty and joy of the pluralistic society that knocks down nation/state borders and other socially constructed barriers--and breeds REAL equality--you must fight for it. and this fight has never been won by just hoping that the enemy of progress may, at some point, through "dialogue and understanding," change its mind and "give" you your freedom.

capitalists in israel and reactionary arab countries have and want to keep control of the means of production in their respective countries. imperialists, especially u.s. imperialists, want super-profit, and so not only do they exploit the workers in their own countries, they also try to impose their hegemony on other countries--mostly developing countries--to control those natural and human resources as well.

the only way to defeat the israelis, the arab reactionaries, and the u.s. and other imperialists is to recognize that these forces are not going to give up their power. the power must be wrested from them, and it must be wrested with the use of revolutionary armed struggle, which is clearly only one of many fronts on which the revolutionary fights.

with all due respect to your dialogue with israeli peace activists, the palestinian-israeli / arab-israeli conflict is not one of pathology. it's not one that will be resolved if "we just learn about each other and try to understand why we hate each other; or at the very least, why we don't get along." because there isn't any INHERENT hate between israeli jews and arab / palestinian muslims and christians. what there is is a white settler colonialist power represented by israel and oppressed nations fighting against it for freedom, independence, and progress. simple. peasants and workers (and some professionals and business people--LOL) fighting for freedom.

and because it's not pathological, and because history is made by masses of people in revolutionary motion, the conflict will only be resolved by these people following the lead of women and men like dr. george habash, who will fight diplomatically, politically, economically, and yes, militarily, until zionist israel, and its patron, u.s. imperialism, is defeated.

the power of the people is what habash represents. a people who refuse to give up the right of return and refuse to give up revolutionary struggle. see the gazans in the last few weeks, the lebanese of the summer of 2006, and fans of habash across the world who, in the next couple of days, will have no problem writing about him and "mourning [him] as a great hero today." because he was a hero to the palestinian, the lebanese, the iraqi, the egyptian, and the jordanian, as well as the filipino, the puerto rican, the black american, the south african, the cuban, and the white worker in europe or the states.

and please, please don't try to equate the revolutionary violence of a liberation movement with the violence of the occupier and the oppressor.

the phalangists of lebanon, the israeli "defense" forces, and the american military circa vietnam era and today in iraq, afghanistan, and other countries like the philippines and colombia, were and are responsible for millions of deaths. none of these three is fighting for the freedom of its people.

but george habash WAS, and the palestinian, lebanese, and iraqi patriots STILL ARE.

and leila, we need you, and people like you, to uphold the right of palestinians and others to defend themselves and resist occupation and national oppression.

george assata

Leila, I'd love to see a response to George!

Very interesting points, George Assata. Part of me is in sympathy with what you say, because it does seem to me that the power structure will not allow the people to breathe freely - in fact the powers that be are choking us more every year.

However you did not address my complaint about the nature of revolutionary movements - that they tend to turn against the very people who support them. Look at the Cultural Revolution in China and all the genuine supporters of Mao who were persecuted and tormented in the name of revolutionary purity.

My grandmother was killed by partisans of the revolutionary struggle. The partisans were retaliating against Phalangists, yes. But in the heat of war they murdered an 83-year-old woman in her bed. If she had been the mother of Phalangists, she would not have deserved this fate. But she was the mother of men who supported the Palestinian cause, and helped their Palestinian brothers in the camps get work, get visas to go to university in America, etc. My whole family was displaced for six years, and one relative was put on a death list - the relative who had been at the negotiating table trying to work out a truce among the factions when the fighting broke out.

I cannot trust anybody's revolution after that. In fact what we saw in Lebanon of the 70s was a great deal of revolutionary cant promoted by angry thugs. Now when I think about it, the "thugs" of the Palestinian camps were wounded and suffering from their experience in those camps since '48, including the relentless bombing Israel carried out against the people of those camps. Lebanon also penned up and repressed (and still represses) the camp residents. It's no wonder some of the young men acted like thugs when they had the chance.

BUT you can see that after having the family experience of supporting Palestine and the cause, while still receiving bad Palestinian "revolutionary" behavior, I am not prone to trust or cheer revolutionaries.

Perhaps a Marxist would say that as a middle class person it is not in my class interest to support revolutions, and I cannot escape the bondage of my class position. Most of the Marxists I know have very comfortable class positions, better than mine, with academic tenure and full benefits at Western universities. I don't get too concerned when such Marxists criticize my class position.

Let me note that the leader of Ain el-Helweh camp later issued an official apology to my family for the murder of my grandmother.

Anyway. I am a writer and I want to know the experience of everyone. I gave up going to dialogue group after a few years because I wasn't sure what "good" it does, but as a writer who is interested in human experience, I found dialogue illuminating when I did attend. I got to hear stories from the other side. THis is invaluable.

In any case, the whole question of revolutionary struggle seems moot to me. What are we to do, join Hizbullah? Not going to happen in my case, no matter how much some of my connections assure me of Hizbullah's benevolence. While I respect those who pursue a religious path, I am a committed secularist.

And yet Hizbullah seems like the only organized, stable revolutionary group on the Lebanese scene. So when it comes to revolution, I don't see a place for me.

Like a typical bourgeois artist, or canny peasant, I keep my head low and make plans as best I can to ride out whatever may be coming in the future. I will not be at the barricades and I will not let my children go to the barricades either, if I can help it (nobody can choose for their children - however I don't seem to raising revolutionaries).

On the other hand. The longer I live and the more I see, the more my steps turn to the left. Analysis that looked foolhardy in the 70s or 90s seems more accurate by the year.

But there's always that fundamental conflict. Revolutionaries tend to eat their followers and their young. I am not interested in cheering on a revolution that murders the innocent and turns upon its well-meaning supporters.

Leila: Whether or not Habash was responsible for terrorist acts against Lebanese civilians, he certainly was responsible for such acts against Israeli civilians. And for that, I continue to maintain that yr condemnation of him rings true to me.

To be clear, I do not support terror of any stripe whether originating from Lebanese, Palestinians or Israelis.

Hey, Richard - I think I understand Abu-Khalil to be saying that Habash did not originate the attacks against Israeli civilians either. My original problem with "armed resistance" back in the 70s was I didn't see why killing Israeli children helped anybody's cause. It was certainly wrong to do it, whether "good for the cause" or no. I could not accept this then and of course do not accept it now.

I wrote: "I didn't see why killing Israeli children helped anybody's cause."

Or killing Israeli grown-ups either. Or other non-Israeli, non-Arab bystanders. Why should passengers on an airplane suffer terror and even death to prove anybody's political point? I don't accept the idea that "all Israeli adults are military, therefore they are all targets" - that's collective punishment and it's illegal.

And sending that old man in a wheelchair over the side of the ship Achille Lauro could never be justified.

Some have said to me, but Leila, think of all the Palestinian children the Israelis have killed without mercy.

I do think of them, and I am aware, painfully aware, that Israel has killed far more civilians including children than all the Arab attacks on Israel combined. My answer as a twelve-year-old stands:

"Two wrongs don't make a right."

Leila (my daughter's name, BTW) I appreciate your POV. As things in Palestine have gotten considerably worse, I find myself having to re-think what I formerly believed to be true.

I share George's view that the injustice is deeply engrained in the structures of power. And I'm not sure how one can change that and retain one's humanity at the same time.

"BUT you can see that after having the family experience of supporting Palestine and the cause, while still receiving bad Palestinian "revolutionary" behavior, I am not prone to trust or cheer revolutionaries."

my family was enthusiastic supporter of the russian revolution and the father of my grandmother was a member of the congress of popular representatives or whatever you call it in english .. the father of my grandfather was a general in the red army ... the first one was executed in 1937 and the grandfather spent seven years in soviet labor camp for what they called anti soviet propaganda, means he did not know to keep his mouth shut

but my family is since ages past this marxist revolutionary past ... revolutions eat their children??? of course ... if you subscribe to this marxist bullshit about violence as a motor of historical progress, then what do you want ??? a special treatment for yourself as a member of the progressive classes ??

for whatever reason people find this monstrous ideology fascinating they only have themselves to blame when the boomerang comes back .. and in this sense it's irrelevant if you lend this ideology practical help or just entertained yourself with these ideas at the purely theoretical level ...

and how exactly to single out and demonize people based on their class status is any better than to do the same using other criteria beats me .... from your post revolutionary but nevertheless still distinctively marxist discourse, it seems as if you are still failing to understand that if an apple is rotten it's because it came from a rotten tree ...

Hey, "Nobody", I think you mistake my ironical comment for my true belief. I actually agree with your points. In fact I've been thinking of Isaac Babel this week, the great Russian writer who had a very large vision and ended up being killed by Stalin.

If you're here from Google, be sure and read my other updated posts on Habash:



A cousin's response.

dear leila,

you wrote: "I didn't see why killing Israeli children helped anybody's cause. or killing Israeli grown-ups either. Or other non-Israeli, non-Arab bystanders. Why should passengers on an airplane suffer terror and even death to prove anybody's political point? I don't accept the idea that 'all Israeli adults are military, therefore they are all targets' - that's collective punishment and it's illegal.

And sending that old man in a wheelchair over the side of the ship Achille Lauro could never be justified."

therein lies the problem in your analysis, IMHO. again, as your cousin has written and as abukhalil has mentioned and written, habash and his organization were not responsible for planning achille lauro or any other cold-blooded aggressions and massacres.

the pflp made scientific determinations when it planned its military operations. it released civilians before blowing up any planes. it defended palestinians and lebanese and jordanians in the camps and beirut and amman and only organized offensive operations against israel's military, the phalangists' militias, and the king's army, but NEVER against civilians. even today, all of its operations target israeli military outposts and/or armed settlers.

there's a difference between saying that "civilians were killed" (may your martyred grandmother rest in peace) and that "civilians were TARGETED."

the other thing that needs to be said is that habash himself (and the pflp by extension) was democratic and collective in his decision-making. yes, he was a communist, but we shouldn't let american government propaganda and perceptions of communism skew our understanding of that system. habash and the leadership of the pflp made the democratic and collective decision to expel wadi3 haddad, a FOUNDER of the ANM and the pflp, when haddad would not accept the democratic centralist decisions to end the hijacking operations. haddad was one of habash's closest friends and comrades, but that did not affect the decision that he had to make. that is an important historical point that needs to be clarified.

and habash also did something in the twilight of his political career that must be considered and respected immensely. he resigned his post as general secretary of the pflp and made it be known, clearly, that he did it as an example (to all of those despots in the palestinian, arab, and other arenas) of the need for peaceful and democratic transfer of leadership. he said, at the time, that people "do not have to die to relinquish their positions of power. they must trust that others can do the job."

and i have to also tell this anecdote about him: i don't remember the source exactly, but he was once asked by a journalist about the Right of Return and what would happen to israeli jews if that right was upheld and implemented. i believe the inquisitor was not fully clear about habash's marxist-leninist background and ideological leanings, and was possibly expecting some kind of reactionary response similar to "pushing the jews into the sea." he asked, and i paraphrase, "doctor, what happens when you Return and find someone else [israeli jews] living in your family's home?"

habash's answer, and again i paraphrase: "then i will just build a second floor above it and my family will live there." he was of course referring to the cultural and historical tradition of families in palestine building extensions on their land and to their homes to accommodate the living needs of succeeding generations of progeny. a perfect example of putting ideas into practice.

lastly, revolutionary movements do NOT "turn against the people that support them," as you wrote above. they turn against counter-revolutionaries, and justifiably so. because even after the revolution is victorious and the peasant and working classes take power, the national bourgeoisie (usually supported by imperialist countries) does not give up. it continues to fight against the revolution, so the revolution must be steadfast in its realization that there are elements that must be countered and sometimes repressed. it was khrushchev's pushing the USSR leadership to be less vigilant against these counter-revolutionaries that led to revisionism and the capitalist restoration, fascism, exploitation, poverty, and mafias that we have in the ex-soviet bloc today.

i humbly suggest, as judy writes above, that you may have to "re-think what [you] formerly believed to be true."

george assata

Hey George - many of your points about Dr. Habash and violence line up with those of my cousin and As'ad Abu-Khalil. I think it's important for this other view of Dr. Habash to be heard.

However when you start talking about counter-revolutionaries - that's where you lost me. Who gets to decide who is a counter-revolutionary? and what are the criteria?

As an artist and a free-thinker I am suspicious of the Kommissariat, the people who want to define what is "counter-revolutionary." They are the thought police. They exist in right-wing ideologies as well as left-wing. I don't like them and I don't trust them. When you start talking about counter revolutionaries so blithely, I just see witch hunts and blood feuds getting settled in the execution room, with kangaroo trials and gulags and mass arrests.

So I am never going to be a good Marxist-Leninist. In fact I think the time for that analysis is past. What is coming at us is a whole other set of crises that Marx and Lenin did not foresee and had no real means to analyze - the environmental crisis that may threaten human life as we know it.

Talk of Marxist revolution just seems like an antiquarian's hobby, like Mesmerism and phrenology.

Dr. Habash, may he rest in peace, was of another era. God calls us all to the grave, partly so that the young can rise up and do something new. We hope they will learn from our mistakes.

but if not talk of marxist-leninist revolution, then how do you build the society that you want, and that habash wanted? that's the main question.

you vote for it? you debate the exploiters and oppressors to convince them to help you build it? we all want peace and freedom, but it only comes with hard work and the leadership of an organization that matches theory with practice.

and it comes with a cost. we must be willing to bear it, no? even the writers, philosophers, and artists amongst us.


Sorry, George, what you're offering is less concrete to me than a series of Catholic penances (of which I know little) for my sins. I don't know what leader of which revolution you suggest I follow. Sounds like you think that voting and participating in Western liberal society is pointless - which it may be. However I don't quite see who or what it is you suggest we follow on this shining revolutionary path. The revolution of Habash never happened. All we got in Lebanon for that revolutionary talk was a lot of infighting and bloodshed. Sorry, I am not interested.

If anything, I am probably going to cast my "vote" with the anarchists, the ones working locally to create change from the ground up.

But in the end, I am simply a woman, a cancer patient, struggling to survive in the world as it is in this moment - and enjoying this moment for its beauty. Talk of revolution seems extremely irrelevant to me.

What does matter to me is that whenever anyone wants me to agree to support violence as a political means, I just keep saying no. No to invading Iraq. No to riot police breaking heads. No to capital punishment. No to bombing Gaza, Lebanon or anywhere. No to massacres. No to preemptive strikes. No to suicide bombers, or fidayeen attacking schools and busses. No to Israeli helicopter gunships. No to sanctions and starving the people of Gaza; no to checkpoints that kill women waiting to get to hospital. No to assassinating "counter-revolutionaries" and "capitalist pigs" and "terrorist leaders." No, no, no to killing.

but i still don't understand why talk about revolution is irrelevant to you. you seem very much like a revolutionary to me. you want to change things, build a more free society, and all the while "enjoying this moment for its beauty." that's revolutionary! we just disagree on the means.

do you remember the quote by che guevara: "Let me say at the risk of seeming ridiculous, that the true revolutionary is guided by great feelings of love"?

revolutionaries, even the "violent" type, love life and they love humanity and they love nature. but they hate human suffering, and the fact that the earth is also suffering, and so they analyze the world using dialectics and historical materialism, and those studies guide their work. i know that i may not be convincing you, but there is no other choice but to critique the system that causes exploitation, mass murder, and suffering--the system of greed and profit called capitalism. we can't criticize the resistance to this system.

and please know that revolutionary violence without organizing the masses and without a clear formulation of political and economic goals is not enough. in fact, the pflp split at one point because a competitor of habash's felt that the struggle was only about "revolutionary violence." but that's not what habash himself believed, and after reading the last 3 days of reports about his death in the american and european press, i'm concerned that too many people are going to think that he was only about "violence."

i think that's why i originally commented on your first post. it's important that people know how he and his comrades wanted to transform society for the betterment of humankind; how they upheld the equality of women; how they supported workers, trade unionists, peasants, the poor, oppressed nations, and all other exploited sectors of society; and how they fought against reaction, patriarchy, and elitist tendencies in their own ranks.

that should be his legacy, and why we mourn his loss.

his legacy is not as time.com describes it ("terrorism's christian godfather") or as a "terrorism tactician," from a new york times headline.

and i'm afraid that some who read your posts may think that's how you're describing him as well.

george assata


when a person is a cancer patient, usually he massively loses taste for wasting his time and energies for the sake of hopeless causes ... get this into your head

hey nobody, i'm sure that my friend leila doesn't want you speaking for her, especially in your disrespectful way. stay out of it.


you are right .. it was very wrong for me to say this ... i apologize

anyway ... to put it in a proper way ... many people who went through and tasted this ideology on their skin are weary to give it another try ... because basically this system has failed everywhere ... more than this ... it killed more people than the ww2 ... it killed dozens of millions .. too often it ended in cultural revolutions, gulags and killing fields which indicates that this ideology has deep built-in defects that make it prone to slide into extreme violence ...

you dont have this blueprint for the perfect society ... admit this: you dont ... there is no point then to call for a revolution or revolutionary violence ... because this revolution killed too many people while the results were zero ... people are supposed to learn from their mistakes and not to repeat them without end ...

basically as far as i am concerned everything you say is wrong .. but i dont want even to go into this ... i will tell you it in a simple and marxist way, the only way you seem to understand ...

from the point of view of marxism equality, human rights and similar stuff is just a useless blah blah blah ... marxism is not a utopian project ... it's a pseudo science ... the only justification for communism from the marxist point of view is in its being a superior production system ...

if you dont believe me, go and read your marxist bibles again .. from the point of view of marxism the historical justification for a new socio economic order to replace the old one is in its ability to push forward production .... this is marxism ... otherwise marx would not have said that slavery was a huge step forward compared to stone age communism .... in the same way communism does not make sense for marxism because of its justice, equality and other hippy nonsense .. marxism is a ruthless ideology ... it does not have time for this flowery stuff ....

from the marxist perspective, communism was supposed to overcome capitalism's shortcomings as a production system measured in marxism by a sheer volume of production .... but communism failed as a production system ... it's not only communism failed ... even keynsianism seems to be largely abandoned ... free market is universally admitted to be a superior production system ... as a marxist, this should be enough for you ... communism have lost its historical justification even from the marxist point of view .... it's all over ... it's a dead ideology that have lost its rason detre even in its own terms .. it's a preserve of diehard mastodonts like habbash and the angry arab .... and it's nothing else than this ...

Nobody knows the troubles I've seen.

actually, "nobody," if you think that the angry arab is a marxist-leninist, then you don't really understand it as well as you claim to.

so it's much easier for me to just make the above statement than to refute all of your horribly inaccurate analysis.

for if you don't even recognize one when you see one, or recognize that one is really not one, i'm not sure you can write as if you were an authority. sorry, leila, i just had to reply.


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