Monday, June 16, 2008

Refugees are the essence

The Palestinian national struggle began among the Palestinian refugees, whose lives are the ongoing reality of the Nakba. No national strategy for resistance is possible without them at the centre

Another Great Piece
By Azmi Bishara
Al-Ahram Weekly

"Some have an almost religious faith that Israel will one day cease to exist. Others maintain that Israel will end if the Arabs optimise their conviction that it is an alien entity in the region, incapable of reaching a just peace because it seeks to dominate rather than to assimilate. Odder yet is the belief that peace is the key to Israel's inevitable destruction. Unless Israel can be delivered a major defeat just once, proponents of this belief hold, normalisation is the most powerful weapon against it, because it would then be torn apart by its internal contradictions.

There is no proof of the potential efficacy of either the major defeat concept or the normalisation weapon, even if Ben-Gurion had raised the spectre of the latter. Unfortunately, the reiteration of such unsubstantiated claims becomes a form of opiate for the people, a mystical alternative to the summoning of collective will, the formulation of a strategy for resistance, and the proactive exploitation of Israel's internal contradictions.

Plurality within the framework of Zionist unity has never been a sign of a weakness that, if left to its own dynamics, would lead to Israel's collapse. To the contrary, it is a sign of strength. It is indicative of the ability of that plurality to organise itself, in accordance with the rules of a democratic process and on the basis of certain principles of a national consensus. Moreover, to add insult to injury, those people who appeared in this region from all corners of the earth did not come from a single nationality or even, necessarily, from a democratic culture in the countries they hailed from. Yet they succeeded in creating a national bond, or call it what you will, that could serve as a basis for the rules of a communal democratic game for Jews without their polity breaking down along tribal, sectarian or cultural divides. Meanwhile, 60 years after the Nakba, the Arab peoples, who speak a single language and who had formulated an Arab national project long before the birth of colonialist Zionism, are still reluctant to respect the rules of a democratic game for fear that that will lead to dissolution into hostile parties, tribes and sects.........

The Palestinian national liberation struggle began as a refugee movement, waging armed struggle from the outside. The camp was the centre of that movement. Were it not for armed struggle it would not have been possible to sustain it. The camp was by definition a temporary condition until the realisation of the right of return -- a base, school and community for the resistance. Once these reasons for its existence ceased it became nothing but a ghetto of poverty and misery. These are the conditions that produce Shaker Al-Abbasi and others, and that produce crime and political apathy. They might also engender local community gentrification drives, as occurred in the Yarmouk camp, or they might simply drive people out, as occurred in many camps in Lebanon. If the refugee camp is to be salvaged from its wretchedness and preserved for the purpose for which it was meant to serve there must be a national project for resistance for which the camp serves as a centre. Has any thought been given to this of late? I suspect not. Certainly indifference to the fate of the inhabitants of Al-Barid River and of the refugees of Iraq, and the neglect of their fate on the part of the current official Palestinian leadership in particular, form a painful episode that compels us to contemplate such questions......"

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