Palestinians must be providers of conscience, not victims – OpEd – Eurasia Review
Years before the United States invaded Iraq in 2003, the American media introduced many new characters, promoting them as “experts”. They helped to intensify propaganda and eventually enabled the US government to gain enough popular support for the war.
Although enthusiasm for the Iraq War waned over the next few years, the invasion had a relatively strong popular mandate, allowing President George W. Bush to claim the roles of liberator of Iraq, combatant of ” terrorism” and a champion of American global interests. According to a poll conducted on March 24, 2003, a few days after the invasion, 72% of Americans favored the war.
It is only in recent years that we have begun to fully appreciate the enormous edifice of lies, deceptions and forgeries involved in shaping the war narrative, and the sinister role played by the mainstream media in demonizing Iraq and the dehumanization of its people. Future historians will continue to unpack the plot for years to come.
Therefore, it is also important to recognize the role played by Iraq’s own “indigenous informants” as described by Edward Said. The native informant is a “willing servant of imperialism”, according to the deceased Palestinian intellectual.
Thanks to the various American invasions and military interventions, these informants have grown in number and usefulness to the point that, in various Western intellectual and media circles, they define what are mistakenly considered facts concerning most Arab and Muslim countries. From Afghanistan to Iran, Syria, Palestine, Libya and Iraq, among others, these so-called experts are constantly repeating messages tailored to American and Western agendas.
Although this phenomenon is widely understood – especially since its dangerous consequences have become all too apparent in the cases of Iraq and Afghanistan – another phenomenon rarely receives the attention it deserves. In the second scenario, the “intellectual” is not necessarily an informant, but a victim whose message is entirely shaped by their feelings of self-pity and victimization. In the process of communicating this collective victimization, this intellectual disadvantages his people by presenting them as unhappy and having no human agency.
Palestine is a good example. The Palestinian “victim intellectual” is not an intellectual by any conventional definition. Said refers to the intellectual as “an individual endowed with the ability to represent, embody, articulate a message, a vision, an attitude, a philosophy or an opinion”. Gramsci argued that intellectuals are those “who sustain, modify, and alter the ways of thinking and behaving of the masses.” He called them “providers of conscience”. The intellectual victim is none of that.
In the case of Palestine, the creation of this phenomenon was not accidental. Due to the limited spaces for Palestinian thinkers to speak openly and honestly about Israeli crimes and Palestinian resistance to military occupation and apartheid, some have strategically chosen to use all available margins to communicate any type of message that could theoretically be accepted by Western media. and the public.
In other words, for Palestinian intellectuals to operate on the margins of mainstream Western society – or even within the space allocated by some pro-Palestinian groups – they can only be allowed to narrate as purveyors of victimization. Nothing more.
In general, those familiar with Palestinian intellectual discourse, particularly after Israel’s first major war on Gaza in 2008-2009, must have noticed how accepted Palestinian narratives regarding the war rarely deviate from the decontextualized and depoliticized discourse of victims. Palestinians. While it is essential to understand Israel’s depravity and the horror of its war crimes, Palestinian voices who are offered a platform to respond to these crimes are often denied the opportunity to present their stories in the form solid political or geopolitical analyses, and even less to denounce the Zionist ideology or proudly defend the Palestinian resistance.
It can be said that the Palestinians adapt their language to adapt to the political and media spaces available to them. This, however, does not explain why many Palestinians, even in “friendly” political and academic environments, can only see their people as victims and nothing more.
This is not a new phenomenon. This dates back to the early years of the Israeli war against the Palestinian people. Palestinian leftist intellectual Ghassan Kanafani, like others, was aware of this dichotomy. Kanafani contributed to the intellectual awakening of various revolutionary societies in the countries of the South at a critical time for national liberation struggles everywhere. He was the posthumous recipient of the Afro-Asian Writers Association’s Lotus Prize for Literature in 1975, three years after he was assassinated by Israel in Beirut.
Like others of his generation, Kanafani was adamant in portraying Palestinian victimhood as part and parcel of the complex political reality of Israeli military occupation, Western colonialism and US-led imperialism. A famous story is often told of how he met his wife, Anni, in southern Lebanon. When Anni, a Danish journalist, arrived in Lebanon in 1961, she asked Kanafani if she could visit the Palestinian refugee camps. “My people are not animals in a zoo,” Kanafani replied, adding, “You must have a good knowledge of them before you go visit.” The same logic can be applied to Gaza, Sheikh Jarrah and Jenin.
The Palestinian struggle cannot be reduced to a conversation about poverty or the horrors of war, but must be expanded to include the larger political contexts that led to the current tragedies in the first place. The role of the Palestinian intellectual cannot stop at conveying the victimization of the people of Palestine, leaving the far more consequential – and intellectually demanding – role of uncovering historical, political and geopolitical facts to others, some of whom often speak on behalf of the Palestinians.
It is quite uplifting and gratifying to finally see more Palestinian voices included in the discussion on Palestine. In some cases, Palestinians even take center stage in these conversations. However, for the Palestinian narrative to be truly relevant, Palestinians must assume the role of the Gramscian intellectual, as providers of consciousness, and completely abandon the role of the victimized intellectual.
Indeed, the Palestinian people are not animals in a zoo, but a nation of people with political agency who are able to articulate, resist and ultimately win their freedom within the framework of a much greater struggle for justice and liberation across the world.