Friday, June 6, 2008

The ongoing Arab grief

Until now, Arab denial of the reasons for the 1948 catastrophe leaves its meaning locked in echoes and beyond reach

Another, Very Good Piece

By Azmi Bishara
Al-Ahram Weekly

".......The Arab regimes were defeated in 1948 because they did not take part in the fighting or because their engagement was governed by their conflicts with and conspiracies against one another. The Palestinians were defeated because they miscalculated their own timing and the strength of their enemy. Israel won for an endless number of reasons, from which we select the following: Arab armies did not actually engage Israel in battle and did not possess the will to combat; the Zionist project was the offshoot of a colonialist project, having been adopted as one of the missions of the British mandate over Palestine; waves of European anti-Semitism had reached unprecedented proportions in the form of the Nazi holocaust; the Zionist leadership had succeeded in building political, economic and military state structures in Palestine under the British mandate, long before the rise of the Nazis in Germany. Because it was a pragmatic and rational leadership, it assessed its own strength vis- à-vis that of its enemy and it planned and timed its moves accordingly.

Arab memory of the Nakba denied or ignored these causes instead of confronting them. Early denial was manifested in the claim that Britain had failed to understand where its true interests lay, or in the claim that the catastrophe was the result of a British-Zionist-reactionary Arab conspiracy (we still hear strong echoes of this today in the attempt on the part of some Arabs to convince the US, supplanting Great Britain, where its true interests lie)......

Like the first three causes of the Zionist victory, it would be of little avail to deny the fourth and to pretend, for example, that Zionism was purely a colonial myth concocted to mask an imperialist spearhead into the region and that the Zionists' democratic practices and the institutions they created in the course of a successful colonisation process were no more than a figment of propaganda about an oasis of democracy in the Middle East. This is where Arab imagination that seeks to "understand" the meaning of the Nakba could suddenly leap to the belief that the Zionist establishment is truly a divine miracle that will crush everyone that does not bow down and efface himself before it. If put on the spot, the Arab who is keen to "understand" the meaning of the Nakba will tell you that he favours peace with Israel even without realising justice for the Palestinians and the Arabs. This, he will insist, is not because of his admiration for Israel, but because what unites Israel is war. So with peace, Israel would soon implode under the weight of its internal disputes and contradictions."

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