The Middle East according to anti-globalisation activists.

Article published on Oct. 11, 2002
community published
Article published on Oct. 11, 2002

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A dream of peace for the Middle East is emerging from 'civil European society'. Against Sharon and Bush: how should one fight against this 'base' Empire. An interview with Antonio Musella from 'Students in action'.

Cafe Babel meets Antonio Musella, a 22-year-old student, national spokesman for 'Students in action', an anti-globalisation organisation questioning policy in the Middle East.

On the side of the Palestinians and against the 'International Jewish lobby', this group are attempting so-called 'grass roots diplomacy' to find a resolution to the conflict.

But war continues. Hobbes leads Kant one nil.

Cafe Babel: Students in Action has participated in the Action for Peace parade in Palestine (website: to assert grass roots diplomacy. But what does this expression mean?

Antonio Musella: Grass roots diplomacy is the capacity of an international pressure group, that is to say the anti-globalisation movement, to impose a resolution of the conflict on governments and other powers, and to reopen areas of political mediation that had been closed by war. Grass roots diplomacy is considered to be the diplomatic involvement of social movements of civil international society, of vast sections of the population. This was the composition of the Action for Peace parade in Palestine at Easter 2002 which contained about 500 European and non-European activists.

Grass roots diplomacy also means direct action, mobilisation. This work of counter-information and social declaration developed by the Action for Peace parade, and in particular by disobedient Italians, was a physical manifestation in defence of the Palestinian population. In our hundreds we protected the houses of those in Ramallah, Bethlehem and at Camp Deisha.

CB: In spite of the attempts by 'grass roots diplomacy', there only seems to be a way out of the Palestinian crisis when Washington starts to put pressure on the Sharon government. Do you share this analysis? And what is the United States' responsibility?

AM: It is not exactly like that. The international Jewish lobby, that influences much of the global economy, pushes the US government to defend to the death the work of Sharon and Co. In spite of missions by Powell and other state-side exponents in the West Bank, the United States are united by very strong economic and military links with the Israeli government, and their only objective at the moment seems to be to find a status quo in Palestine that lets them obtain from the rest of the Arab world (Saudi Arabia among them) the consent to attack Iraq again. They are doing so dynamically. Witness today what one could call a sort of global imperialism that is overriding the old category of imperialism. The United States needs stalemate in the Mediterranean in order to run the entire area with its other imperial partners. It is a state of constant global war. The responsibilities of the United States in the Mediterranean crisis are many. Look at the numerous vetoes placed by the American government on the UN resolutions calling for an independent Palestinian state.

CB: Do you believe that grass roots diplomacy can be instrumental in deciding European foreign policy in the Middle East?

AM: Grass roots diplomacy is above all in the hands of European and international civil society and in the hands of social movements.

CB: The European Union seems to be developing a second level role in this crisis. In your opinion, what should its attitude be? What are the EU's interests in the Middle East crisis?

AM: The EU demands to count politically in the 'imperial zone'. By consequence, its work has been that of an apparent mediator among the parties. Apparent since apart from declarations of principle the EU has not acheived anything concrete. On the other hand, we were able to establish this role on our shoulders, those of European citizens, because the Israeli military government does not give a damn about the declarations of intent of Europe. In the Action for Peace parade some French and Italian MEPs were present, as well as Ministers from the Italian parliament. Their role in the parade was to converse with the Israeli army and the local police. On more than one occasion at the request of explanations made by the MEPs, the army replied with scornful smiles or brutal violence. Simply put, the Israelis do not recognise their role. On one occasion the Italian vice-consul, and his French colleague, were punched in Jerusalem were struck by the Israeli army at the Qualandia check-point at the gates of Ramallah while they were escorting a delegation of international activists outside the occupied territory where for several days they had been collaborating in assisting the local population.

CB: Water, petrol, the arms industry, the Jewish lobby, fundamental Islam, adhesion of Israel to the EU, apartheid, two peoples, two states: suggest three proposals that would provide a long-lasting solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict.

AM: 1. The removal of the Israeli army immediately from the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and the dismantlment of the numerous Israeli settlements in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

2. The proclamation of an independent Palestinian states with eastern Jerusalem as its capital.

3. The return of the Palestinian refugees from the camps in Lebanon, Egypt and Syria.

CB: After Genoa and September 11th, some people have talked about a red line that unites the anti-globalisation fight and Islamic anti-Americanism. Does the hypothesis have foundation? What side should Europe be on?

AM: This is an inference. The anti-globalisation movement is, as has been said before, a group of international pressure groups, considered to be representative of civil society and social movements. Fundamental Islam is a complex matter but profoundly different from the aspirations and composition of the anti-globalisation movement.

The majority of Islamic movements like Al Quaeda (but not only them; I am thinking also for example of Min (the Islamic movement in Uzbekistan), of Juna Namagini, a well as Hamas of Sheik Jassin, and the pacifist Hizb ut Thair of Sheik Zaloom in central Asia) are fighting or publishing propaganda for the overturning of dictatorial governments, proposing the installation of the sharia, Islamic law, and dreaming of a situation like in central Asia where an Arab Caliphate guides his Arab people to the jihad, an option that is an unfathomable distance from the perspective of the anti-globalisation movement. I would even say that the same movement considers them decidedly adverse.

Europe in all this limits itself to supporting dictatorial governments in line with the USA as in Tagikitan, in Uzbekistan by the dictator Karimov, in Kazakistan and in the Middle East. It is not a mystery that the very Taliban were financed by the CIA.

What one regularly omits when talking about the Arab world is that democratic and laic movements and political parties do exist, like Al-Fatah, the Popular Front. But the same expressions of the moderate Islam of central Asia get disheartened by wild repression in the past of the Soviets and then the dictatorial governments. All this does nothing except foster the rising of fundamentalist movements that enter under the cover of secrecy and agitate for the jihad.