Thursday, June 17, 2004


Here's a piece that was published in al Ahram last month, discussing the significance of the nakba in Arab reality. Nakba (Arabic for 'cataclysm' or 'catastrophe') is the term used in the Arab world to refer to the events surrounding the creation of the state of Israel, and the destruction of Palestinian society which occurred at the time.

I was impressed at the searching quality of the piece, and of the author's willingness to confront the culpability of Arab governments in the current crisis. Many of these regimes have for decades skillfully and cynically used the Palestinian situation to draw attention away from their own incompetence and corruption.

The Arabs should contemplate the relationship between the absence of Arab nationalism, democracy and the sovereignty of law and human dignity and the rights of citizenship. We should contemplate the meaning of rampant bribery and corruption and how they fly in the face of concepts of modernism and modernisation, the principle of the right type of human being for a society at a particular time, and the notion of a decision-making process based on criteria that are not extraneous to the subject at hand. The questions we ask ourselves on this set of issues should not be posed as derivatives from the Arab-Israeli conflict or the nakba, but as questions that need to be asked in their own right if we are to help ourselves. Even if there exists a historic relationship between this set of issues and the Arab-Israeli conflict, we must make the effort to separate the two structurally and functionally. Only then will our answer to the meaning of the nakba derive from the circumstances, needs and capacities of contemporary Arab society.

In this sense, Arab solidarity with Palestinian liberation, if structured upon a solid strategy, should not only lead to the "liberation of Jerusalem" and the liberation of the Palestinians, but also contribute to the liberation of the Arab human being. Marx wrote that the Jews of Europe would be liberated when Europe freed itself of its Jewish complex. In like vein, the Palestinians will be liberated when the Arab world rids itself of its Palestinian complex, ie when it frees its will from the chains that bind it, from colonialist dependency on ignorance, myth and superstition.

Somewhat long, but worth the read.

I think it's true that there won't be much progress among Arab societies unless and until there is a realization that all misfortune does not follow from the creation of Israel and the Arab-Israeli conflict. Conversely, the U.S. won't be able to effectively cultivate and support democratic change until we recognize just how significant a part al Nakba plays in the Arab consciousness, and how handicapped we are in that we are rightly perceived as abetting the oppression of the Palestinians, both by the Israelis and by the corrupt Palestinian Authority.

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