Friday, February 17, 2006


The Alternative Information Resource Centre (AIRC)

After Mohammed Monsour's trial, I proceeded to check out the Alternative Information Resource Centre (AIRC). I went there on the recommendation of a comrade in Australia who had visited Palestine previously. Their office was about the size of the Green Left office with publications everywhere. They had various archives of material on the Palestine-Israel situation. The organisation is joint Palestinian and Israeli. They have two offices, one in Jerusalem and the other in Beit Sahur (part of the Bethlehem region).

Whilst the organisation is joint Palestinian-Israeli, the dominant language on all the signs in the Jerusalem office was Hebrew and most of their meetings are in Hebrew. The AIRC members in Jerusalem include many Palestinians from pre-48 Palestine. They have produced many DVD's, online information and produce 3 magazines, one in Hebrew, one in Arabic and an English language magazine 'News from Within.' News from within is a monthly magazine which produces 2000 copies per month (roughly 800 subscribers internationally, 300 through a UK distributor and 900 sold in Israel/Palestine).

One of their previous distribution organisers made an effort to sell the magazine at rallies and outside the old city in the same way comrades in Australia distribute Green Left Weekly but that seems to have fallen off and most copies are sold through the office. The organisation has about 10-15 full timers and appears to have a significant volunteer base. AIRC's politics are probably the sharpest and most clearly leftist that I have seen since I started my trip. Just a quick quote from the AIRC website "[we] provide a critical discussion of the political realities that shape the current situation, with special attention given to the radical democratic and feminist struggles, critical perspectives on the colonial nature of Israel and the alarming authoritarian features that emerge in the Palestinian Authority."

There is a clear socialist bent in the office, including some of Lenin's writings in Hebrew. I also purchased a series of pamphlets called "The Economy of the Occupation," that deals with issues such as the cost of the settlements on Israeli people, the rich poor divide and wedge politics etc. These pamphlets provide very useful information that I haven't seen anywhere else. The organisation was apparently founded by some people who split off from the Israeli Communist Party in the mid 60's and formed a group called Matzpen. Their criticisms of the Israeli Communist Party included its "lack of democracy and failure to prioritise the issue of the occupation."

I wonder if this is the split that Noam from the Communist Youth League said was, a right wing split that took up democracy issues but also supported the 6 day war (different versions of history). I purchased a doco on Matzpen and I need to watch it but hopefully it should answer some of my questions on the history of the Israeli left. Despite its origins the AIRC is primarily a media project and it isn't forming as an ideological socialist activist party like those in Australia. On the other hand their Beit Sahur branch is moving towards having weekly forums, film screenings etc, and have had people distributing a very politcal magazine so the line is blured. So it will be interesting to see if they can build an activist base around them.

AIRC were very helpful in providing me with contact details for various groups in Israel although the couple of people I spoke to didn't seem to think there was much of an ideological left and that the radicals were simply in broad activist organisations. I shall chase up these contacts and see what they are like. I have included the AIRC link on this blog and I suggest people check it out.

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