The War of the Flea
By Joost van Steenis*
Individuals who belong to the masses seem to be powerless against the
powerful ruling body that some call the state, others the establishment,
while I prefer to use the word elite. Many activists do not realise that
they are like fleas, minute entities that are only a nuisance. But thousands
of fleabites are worse then one bite from a tiger. A myriad of individual
intrusions in the private living sphere of leaders makes more impression
than many thousands of people who once demonstrate in front of the office of
leaders. To bite another flea is of course a waste of time. Robert Taber
published in 1965 (edition Paladin 1970) "The War of the Flea" about
successful mass struggles against oppressive indigenous or foreign powers.
Though the present rich Western World and the poor Third World of that time
differ vastly many principles of The War of the Flea are still valid for the
present struggle of the masses against the privileged elite despite the fact
that most past mass struggles were led by elements that later formed a new
elite. Many points demand to be considered seriously in regard to a
successful struggle against a powerful elite.
1. The first goal is mass power.
The purpose of the action is to change the mind of leaders so they take also
into account the needs of the masses and only then a permanent change in the
situation of the masses will occur. Direct improvements of the position of
the masses are only a side effect of the struggle. The struggle is motivated
by the hope for a better future.
2. As many mass people as possible have to become active.
Mass people must get confidence that they become powerful when they act on
their own initiative. Political actions by populist or leftist organizations
never lead to fundamental changes because a leading body controls all
action. In the end this leading group merges with the old elite and denies
any autonomy to the masses. Leftist and populist leaders (communists in
Eastern Europe, socialists in Western Europe, populists who assumed power in
Argentine, Japan or Italy) only proved that the gap between elite and mass
remained and that the masses never got any independent power.
3. The power centre has to be attacked.
Guerrilla and govern forces often clash but leaders remain untouched.
Because power is concentrated in the hands of people from the elite, the
elite has to be attacked in person.
4. Conflicts inside the elite must be utilized.
In the elite several groups compete for power. It is best to attack only one
of these groups and to let the rest of the elite (for the moment) in peace.
When the masses have demolished the power of one elite group it is obvious
that the power of other groups can also be neutralised.
5. The power of the elite must be undermined.
When the elite power diminishes an improvement of the position of the masses
will come by itself. The masses will gain self-esteem and leaders are forced
to take decisions that are also beneficial to the masses and do not in the
first place safeguard the privileged position of the elite.
6. Agreements with even part of the elite are wrong.
The power of the masses must remain independent of any influence of the
elite. When the masses start to negotiate with the elite they are
encapsulated and drawn into the realm of the elite (and given some crumbs of
bread to remain silent). The negotiating policy of leaders of leftist
parties and trade unions only resulted in the acceptation of these leaders
into the old elite. To safeguard this privileged position (in average a much
higher income than the masses) the interest of the masses became subordinate
to the continuation of the status quo.
7. Successes are necessary.
Small successes have to be realized. The continuous existence of an opposing
force outside the realm of influence of the elite is already a success. It
shows that something escapes the power of the elite. When people see that
their own independent and creative actions result in a small change, they
will become self-confident and the possibility for a fundamental change will
8. The final goal is a situation in which the elite cannot and does not want
to live and lead anymore on the old way when it took in the first place
decisions that favoured the own already privileged group.
Joost van Steenis
New ways to break the power of the elite
Amram Mitzna - another false Messiah
by Henry N. Lowi
Here we go again. Disoriented and unprincipled PA officials, who have no
idea how to lead the Palestinian people out of the present impasse, endorse
Amram Mitzna. People who have demonstrated their political bankruptcy, who
have demonstrated that they cannot and will not lead the Palestinian people
to freedom, are falling over themselves in endorsing Mitzna.
Members of the Israeli "Peace Camp" -- those who have been demonstrating
tirelessly against Sharon-Ben Eliezer's brutality, as well as those who have
been sitting at home (waiting, hoping, that Sharon-Ben Eliezer's brutality
will give them peace) -- all are falling over themselves to support Mitzna.
All the arguments in support of Mitzna are variations on "the lesser evil"
argument. Between malaria and cholera, cholera is the lesser evil, or is it
the other way around?
No one is re-visiting Uri Avnery's "80 Theses for a new peace camp"
published in the spring of 2001. That would require defining the detailed
pre-requisites for peace. No one has the appetite for that.
No one is doing a balance sheet of Amram Mitzna's track record. Mitzna was
the Commander of the Central Command who supervised the suppression of the
Intifada that began in December 1987. All will remember that the Intifada
was a grassroots movement, based on popular committees -- trade unions,
student organizations, women's committees -- and had clearly declared
political goals. The leaders of that Intifada were carefully conscious of
their allies inside Israel, and there were many such allies. Amram Mitzna
was not an ally of the popularly-based, political Intifada. He was its
direct oppressor. He was the enforcer of Yitzhak Rabin's call to "break
their bones". He created, and filled up Ansar II at Ketziot with the cream
of Palestinian progressive political activists.
So, the "all out for Mitzna" crowd is not reviewing the Mitzna track record.
They are not prepared to see that he is committed to
"we-are-here-and-they-are-there" apartheid. Their eyes are on "the future".
Unfortunately, a future of peace and coexistence cannot be based on
apartheid, but only on democracy.
Neither are they checking out their previous support for the previous
colonialist general parading as Messiah, Ehud Barak. What hopes he raised!
And then what a disappointment! What despair!
Well, friends, which is it? Did Ehud Barak make a "generous offer" that the
Palestinian masses were insane to reject (and therefore, the Sharon-Ben
Eliezer approach was a necessary evil)? Or was Barak's "generous offer"
nothing more than a formula to maintain the colonialist "matrix of control"
over the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and further institutionalize apartheid
But, the members of the Israeli "Peace Camp" have no time to learn the
lessons of their own history. The activists are terribly worn out from
battling against the "bulldozer". Their dream of Oslo-style peace has
crumbled. The "vision" of a "2 state solution" is now at the core of US
diplomacy, and is the fault-line between the Sharon camp and the Netanyahu
camp. This is all too confusing.
The non-activists, who self-identify as the "Peace Camp", are just feeling
humiliated by their own tacit support for Sharon-Ben Eliezer.
All just want to move on. No one wants to talk about Barak, while
Sharon-Mofaz-Netanyahu are raising their vicious heads.
The activist element of the Israeli "Peace Camp" does not want to even
consider the possibility that they will be forced to confront Mitzna as an
enemy. What a nightmare!
They are looking for light at the end of the tunnel. They are looking for
relief from right-wing incitement. They have no patience for any
I have a suggestion, a friendly one, that looks to the future, and that
members of the "Peace Camp" can adopt if, and only if, they want to maintain
Mitzna has said that any Israeli politician who wants to stay in Hebron is
"not a patriot". Let's ask him to put his money where his mouth is. Let's
say that, within the Israeli "Peace Camp" there is broad consensus about the
settler-colonies that will certainly have to be dismantled. Let's say, just
as an example, that the settler-colony in downtown Hebron, and the one at
Kiryat Arba, are certainly on everyone's list.
So, if Mitzna is not a false Messiah, what he would have to do now is to
declare now, that, if elected, he would do the following:
a. Send notices to all the residents of the Jewish settler-colony in
Hebron, and in Kiryat Arba, telling them that these areas (carefully marked
on accompanying maps) are being expropriated, for military purposes or
other public purposes;
b. All residents have until, say April 1st, 2003, to return a signed
consent form, undertaking to evacuate the areas voluntary, and to leave
behind no personal belongings, and leave the buildings intact. The signed
consent would have to be returned by April 1, 2003. The voluntary
abandonment of these areas would have to be completed by July 1, 2003. (This
would permit students to complete the school year. This would permit
everyone to make alternate arrangements, apply for the rights of Olim in
Israel, apply for immigration to the USA, etc.).
c. On July 1, 2003, the IDF and the Border Guard will enter the
settler-colony in Hebron, and Kiryat Arba, with trucks, buses, and armed
soldiers, and will remove all people, animals and personal property, leaving
nothing but the buildings standing. The eviction of the last hangers-one
will be completed by July 15, 2003.
This process, start to finish, would have to be publicized and pronounced,
in advance of the elections.
The point is to make clear that the "Peace Camp" understands that certain
steps absolutely have to be taken on the road to peace. The key is to
understand that settler-colonialism must be confronted and defeated in order
to turn the tide towards peace, in order for there to be any hope for
reconciliation among Palestinian Arabs and Jews. Anyone who believes that
Mitzna has some brilliant "negotiation strategy" (remember Barak!), without
requiring Mitzna to commit publicly to take on and defeat the militant
diehard racists and colonialists, is dreaming in Technicolor.
The road to peace will not be an easy one. It will not be prettier than the
last 2 years of "Al Aksa Intifada". It will be worse. The dismantlement of
Yamit, by the Begin government, was child's play, compared with what will be
required in the West Bank. There is no need to fantasize about some pacific
Oslo-style negotiation process (Mitzna says "separation within one year"!!).
Massive confrontations will be inevitable. That is the reality. It will
require an totally new alignment of forces, of Arabs and Jews, who are
organized to confront and defeat colonialism and racism. Nothing less will
lead to coexistence.
So, those who are getting all worked up about Mitzna should spend some
cool-headed time thinking: What changes will absolutely have to be made, on
the ground, for there to be peace? Who are my allies in pursuing these
changes? Who are my enemies?
Remember also that the die-hard colonial supremacists are actively agitating
for a civil war against the "Peace Camp". Those who want peace must
prepare for war, civil war. Sad, maybe, but true. Those are the true
stakes in the upcoming Israeli elections.