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Fri Nov 30, 2012, 02:08 PM

Save Your Kisses For Me

Another fantastic mixed-media essay from Adam Curtis. It's really long (~7,500 words), and involved, so I'll just share a couple of excerpts, but the story Curtis is telling is essentially that of utopianism gone wrong all over. Full essay on Adam Curtis' blog at the BBC: http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/adamcurtis/2012/11/save_your_kisses_for_me.html

How the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, and the Israeli right became co-dependents in an abusive relationship.

Last week there was yet another cycle of horrific violence in the Gaza strip. ... Liberals in the west look on baffled and horrified. What they thought was a glorious revolution in the Arab world is morphing into something they don't understand. ... All this is comprehensible though - but only if you look at it in a wider context. A context that western liberals really don't like to think about because it makes them very depressed.


In contrast, the Zionists who were moving into Haifa and the rest of Palestine in the 1930s believed deeply in the power of science, technology and politics to change the world for the better. Many of them had read a novel written by Theodor Herzl in 1902 called Altneuland - Old New Land.

The novel is a utopian vision of a future perfect society set up in Palestine with the city of Haifa at it's heart - Herzl calls it "The City of the Future." Herzl's Zionism was part of a socialist vision of utopia that went back to writers like Fourier and Saint Simon, and he described a society where the land was under common ownership and people lived in co-operatives and communes. There was also a model welfare system, no social classes and exploitation - yet individuals could pursue their own ends and profit by them.

It was a glorious vision, but it was also firmly rooted in the European tradition of empire. In the novel the characters listen to a phonograph roll that describes the achievements of The New Society for the Colonisation of Palestine. It describes how the benevolent technocracy that runs this new society has brought the benefits of European progress to a backward and sparsely populated land.

That's not quite how Sheikh Qassam and his Black Hand Gang saw the Jewish settlers.


The Mujamma did what the Muslim Brotherhood were doing in Egypt. They set up a complex system of welfare in Gaza, including kindergartens, free food and clothing. It also set up clinics offering free healthcare and medicines. They also began to take over many of the professional associations - like the Medical Association, the Engineering Association and the Bar Association.

And the Israeli authorities not only allowed them to do this - but encouraged it. They did this because they saw the conservative ideas of the Islamists as a potent force that could undermine and damage the secular Palestinian revolutionary movement.

There is a really good book about the rise of Hamas by Beverley Milton-Edwards and Stephen Farrell. In it they got a number of very senior Israelis to admit the tacit support they gave to Yassin and the Mujamma. One director military intelligence says:

"At the beginning some elements within the Israeli government - not the government, some elements within the government - were thinking that by strengthening Mujamma they could put some more pressure on Fatah in the Gaza Strip, back in the mid eighties.

I think it was a mistake, yes."


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