Jewbonics, July 6, 2011
A lot of people have picked up on this Haaretz story about Bibi Netanyahu becoming "Greece’s lobbyist to the European Union," in the words of an Israeli diplomat. What was he lobbying for? According to Haaretz, "Netanyahu recently decided to come to the aid of his newfound friend in a meeting of foreign ministers and European leaders, imploring them to provide Greece with financial aid." The quid pro quo? Greece’s Prime Minister, George Papandreou, would effectively scuttle the Freedom Flotilla by preventing Gaza-bound ships from embarking from Greek ports.
A nice story, but, I suspect, mostly untrue. Netanyahu may have lobbied for the bailout, but the German and French banks that offered the "financial aid" did not do so because of Bibi’s supplications. They did so because it was in their interests.
As John Lanchester reports in the London Review, the plan is for the Greeks to get a 120 billion Euro loan, allowing those holding bonds – mostly German and French financial institutions – to roll them over. The Greek government would put in place austerity measures and privatize much of its economy, while rich Greeks would purportedly start paying taxes, letting the Greek economy recover enough to start paying back its lenders by 2012. Of course, it was never going to happen. The left hit the streets almost immediately, Athens is aflame, and even the middle-class is rejecting the bailout.
Or the "bailout."
As Lanchester continues,
The 'bailouts’, as they are always called, are no such thing. Taxpayer-funded capital injections into otherwise bankrupt banks were bailouts. The Greek 'bailouts’ are loans, pure and simple. The money will have to be repaid, and repaid at ungenerous rates of interest: 5.2 per cent for Greece, 5.8 per cent for Ireland. These short-sighted and grasping interest rates…make an already critical problem significantly worse. The Greeks know they are being lent money just so they can work very hard for lower wages and higher taxes in order to pay it back at great cost. This arrangement is in place because of the second thing the Indignati know well, the fact that the outstanding Greek debt is mainly owned by French and German banks. This is why the Western European governments are especially keen on the 'bailout’: it’s helping to keep their banks solvent. The Indignati do not find that a compelling reason to embrace a decade or so of abject misery. They want the Greek government to default, and the banks to accept losses for loans they shouldn’t have made in the first place.
Furthermore, Papandreou may now be talking tough about taxing the upper-class, but as Der Spiegel notes, "The last few decades have seen an elite, with the Papandreou, Karamanlis and Mitsotakis families at its core, establish a system of economic patronage. They threw around billions the government didn't actually have and showered friends and relatives with prosperity that was all based on credit." Economics professor Georgios Argitis from Athens University talks about the "ruling class of politics and capital that made the country its prey" and put Greece in this imbroglio.
This has nothing to do with the beneficence of the German and French bankers who run the European economy. Papandreou did not need Netanyahu's arm-twisting to secure a loan that would postpone the default that bond-traders consider inevitable. We very easily forget that although some sectors of Western power are beginning to chafe at the flagrancy and obduracy of the Israeli occupation, the Western governments have little problem with Israel itself – with its relatively low wages and highly educated workforce, its high-quality crucible for start-ups, its constant destabilization of the Middle East, and its tens of billions of dollars of high-tech physical plant, they simply love the place.
Greece, although poor for a European country, is tied into those networks. It was not unreasonable to hope that Papandreou would let the Freedom Flotilla sail. But it should not be a surprise that he quashed the project, either, especially in the wake of the loosening of ties between Turkey and Israel in the aftermath of the massacre on the Mavi Marmara and the ongoing tightening of ties between Greece and Israel.
What we are witnessing is the solidarity of the powerful. They are very conscious of each others’ interests and convey them to one another across well-lubricated channels.
On the other hand, what we are also seeing is the solidarity of the powerless: the embryonic Egyptian campaign to allow the Freedom Flotilla to sail from an Egyptian port, the Greek left’s protests in support of the Flotilla, and the outpouring from global civil society in support of the Flotilla, even in places with restricted rights to freedom of expression, such as Jordan.
It is through that solidarity that the powerless become powerful.
So it is befuddling, not to say tactically suicidal, to see Ahmed Moor suggesting that "it’s probably best not to direct our anger at the Greek government." The Greek people are overwhelmingly opposed to both the government’s plans for the loan package as well as any government support for Israel. The Greek people are major allies of the Palestinian people. The movement corollary should be that we not play nice with the Greek government. Along with the people of Greece raging in the Athenian streets, we should know who our enemy is: to get all Marxist, international capital and the bourgeois state.
Moor seems confused about the rights and responsibilities of governments. Their responsibility is to do what their citizens demand, not to demand quietude as they loot public wealth. When they don’t do what we want them to do, we don’t take it easy on them. We get rid of them, and get someone who will do what we wish. That’s how democracy works. As Mihail Kritsotakis, a Greek parliamentarian, put it, "The Greek government is obeying the orders of Israel and that is why the ship is anchored here. Were Greece a genuine democracy, the ship would have already set sail."