June 28, 2007
On June 17, 2007, renowned Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish published his reflections on the internecine fighting in Gaza in the London daily Al-Hayat. Darwish is known both for his literary output and for his political activism; he was a member of the PLO Central Committee from 1987 until 1993, when he resigned in protest of the Oslo Accords.
The following are excerpts:(1)
“Did we have to fall from towering heights and see our blood on our hands, in order to grasp that we are not angels, as we used to believe? Did we also have to expose all our faults before everybody, so that our true nature should not remain virginal? How much did we lie when we said: ‘We are an exception.’ That you believe yourself is worse than to lie to another. To be friendly with those who hate us and cruel to those who love us – that is the baseness of one who aggrandizes himself and the arrogance of the lowly.
“Oh Past: Do not change us as we get farther from you. Oh Future: Do not ask us: ‘Who are you? And what do you expect from me?’ Because we too do not know. Oh Present: We have borne little, for we are but insufferable passers-by.
“Identity is that which we bequeath, and not that which is bequeathed us. What we invent and not what we recollect. Identity is the false mirror, which we should break whenever the image pleases us.
“He wore a mask, took courage, and murdered his mother, because she was an easy prey for him, and because a woman soldier stopped him and exposed her breasts to him, saying: ‘Does your mother have such as these?’
“Were it not for shame and darkness, I would visit Gaza, without knowing the way to the house of the new Abu Sufyan, nor the name of the new prophet. And had not Muhammad been the Seal of the Prophets, each tribe would have had a prophet, and each Companion would have had a militia.
“June has astounded us on its fortieth anniversary. If we do not find one to defeat us again, we defeat ourselves with our own hands, lest we forget.
“No matter how much you look into my eyes, you would not find my sight there. Disgrace has snatched it away. My heart does not belong to me, nor to another. It has come to do without me, [but] without becoming a stone.
“Does he who cries over the corpse of his brother ‘Allahu Akbar’ – does he know that he is an infidel, because he sees Allah in his own image, smaller than a normal human being? The prisoner who aspires to inherit the prison concealed a smile of victory from the camera, but he did not succeed in suppressing the joy which spilled out of his eyes. Perhaps because the hasty text was more powerful than the actor. What do we need Narcissus for, so long as we are Palestinians, and so long as we do not know the difference between a mosque (jami‘) and a university (jami’a), because they both come from the same root. What do we need a state for, as long as it and [the passing] days have the same destiny?
“A sign on the door of a nightclub: Welcome Palestinians returning from battle. Entrance is free, and our wine does not intoxicate…
“‘Me and the stranger against my cousin; me and my cousin against my brother; and me and my sheikh against myself.’(2) This is lesson number one in the new national education under the vaults of obscurity.
“Who will enter Paradise first? He who died by the bullets of the enemy, or he who died by the bullets of a brother? Some sages say: Sometimes your enemy is one born of your own mother.
“The fundamentalists do not make me angry, for they are believers in their own way. But I am angered by their secular supporters and by their atheist supporters who believe but in one religion – their own pictures on television.
“Someone asked me: Will a hungry guard defend a house whose owner traveled to spend his summer vacation on the French or Italian Riveria – whichever one of them. I said: He will not guard. He asked me: Does me + me = two? I said: You and you is less than one.
“I am not ashamed of my identity, because it is still [a work] in progress. I am, however, ashamed of some of the things mentioned in Ibn Khaldun’s Prolegomena.(3)
“You are, from now on, another.”
June 28, 2007
*Note: the following post was written jointly by Dr. Sanity and Sigmund, Carl and Alfred and is cross-posted.
Classical Marxist socialism predicted that because of the exploitative nature of capitalism and the oppression of the workers (proletariat) by the capitalists (bourgeoisie) that the masses of the “exploited” would become revolutionaries and sweep the evil capitalists out of power, instituting a “workers’ paradise.”
Sadly for them, the places where this process was helpfully encouraged in the last century by actual violent revolutions–such as in the Soviet Union and Cuba–the “workers’ paradise” thus created turned out to be more of a workers’ hell on earth. Nevertheless, indoctrinated little socialists and communists elsewhere–such as in the U.S, where unimaginable wealth was apparently being created off the backs of the poor proletariat.– waited hopefully for the oppressed workers to join the revolutionary wave.
Much to their surprise and dismay, the clever capitalist system was actually co-opting the oppressed workers, and helping them enter the dreaded “middle class”.
Marx always expected that the middle class–which he described as composed of the small manufacturer, the shopkeeper, the artisan, the peasant etc–would own some property, but not sufficient to have all work done by employees or workers. Those in the middle class must also work in order to survive and are thus simultaneously members of Marx’s proletariat as well as his bourgeoisie. He expected that the middle class would disappear as capitalism developed, since the only sustainable positions were the ones of his dialectic.
This, however, is not what actually happens in the real world as it turns out.
Whenever the workers are given liberty and allowed to pursue their own happiness (and not the state’s), the middle class has continued to expand. In fact, the values of this particular economic group have come to anchor society in the United States. Far from wanting to ignite a worker’s revolution as Marx predicted, they enjoy the creature comforts of the capitalist system and feel themselves empowered by it. Worse (from the communist/socialist’s perspective anyway), the typical person in the middle class believes that he or she can better themselves by using the many opportunities offered by a liberal, capitalistic democracy.
Even in Communist China, capitalistic pursuits and entrepreneurship have become the true “opiates” of the masses–in the sense that to the degree people are free to pursue their own happiness and work for their own interests–i.e., where they have economic freedom, even if they don’t have political freedom– they are relatively content, and are unlikely to fulfill the ardent communist/socialist’s revolutionary fantasies.
Let’s switch gears now and look at the scenario that has been playing out in the Middle East for the last half century or more. The Palestinian-Israeli conflict has all the trappings of a perfect Marxist drama: the oppressed and poverty-stricken proletariat who have been dispossessed from the land that should be rightfully theirs; and the evil, oppressive and exploitative Jew.
There is only one way that the Israelis could have achieved a country of plenty in the midst of the arid and empty desert –and that must be by exploitation, oppression and abuse of the Palestinians. I mean, just look at what Israel has been able to accomplish since its founding! Not only have they managed to create a country that exemplifies western values, but their people are prosperous, industrious, educated, and contribute to the advancement of humanity in every way. And, they managed to do all this in only a few decades; while their Arab counterparts (including the Palestinians) have not been able to create much of anything over hundreds of years. In fact, if it wasn’t for the discovery of oil in the Middle East, there would not be any wealth at all to sustain most of the countries surrounding Israel.
As this Marxist play continues act after repetitive act, highlighting the dialectic of oppressor versus oppressed, we can begin to understand why the political left have supported the Palestinian and Arab cause against Israel; and why jihad and shar’ia have become the preferred “revolt of the masses”.
It was no coincidence that the Al Aqsa intifada was unleashed when it was.
Whoever thinks that the Intifadah broke out because of the despised Sharon’s visit to the Al-Aqsa Mosque, is wrong,” Imad al-Faluji, the Palestinian communications minister, declared in March. “This Intifadah was planned in advance, ever since President Arafat’s return from the Camp David negotiations.
The Camp David negotiations that might possibly have lead to a real peace accord between the Palestinians and the Israelis was the doomsday scenario feared by every faction of the corrupt Palestinian regime and even Palestinian opposition parties (who wanted their turn at the trough). Why? Because peace with Israel meant the Palestinian psychological dynamic would change for good.
When nations that are that are led by or are under the influence of tyrants or dictators, attempt to justify their actions, we can rightly assume that justification is false. Tyrants and dictators do not make moral choices, because moral choices can only lead to the demise of the tyranny.
Peace with Israel would highlight a few realities that the Arab world leadership does not want to face. Overnight, the Palestinians would have the most successful Arab world per capita economy. The Palestinian standard of living would be unparalleled in the Arab world. That economy would grow as foreign investment would flood the region, pouring into already established, but dormant free-trade zones with Israel and themselves. This is no small matter- free trade is is the truest expression of peaceful relations. Countries and regions at peace manage to put aside the differences they have and instead, focus on the things that unite them so that trade and the resulting growth and wealth, remain facilitated.
Wars are not good for free trade. Notwithstanding the ‘military industrial complex’ (who make far more money in peaceful times than they do during war), the generations of free trade of goods and services provide far more money, income and benefits to society at large and demonstrably raise the standard of living for those nations.
Wars interrupt growth and the process of wealth creation. For the Palestinians, peace with Israel would mean the emergence of a middle class; and a middle class is necessary for all healthy and civilized societies.
For the Palestinians, a healthy middle class means that their focus would be redirected away from the dysfunctional values that promote an endless conflict, to those that promote growth and opportunity for its citizens. In a healthy Palestinian society, parents would want their children to go to school and use the tools of education to build a life and a future filed with possibilities. In the current unhealthy society, parents take pride in sending their children to schools where they are taught to hate. Those parents beam with pride as they hear their children commit themselves to kill and destroy; and are rewarded by the society at large when their children blow themselves up.
Nations with a healthy middle class have some other things in common, something that makes both Hamas and Fatah as they vie with each other for power, tremble in a common fear: a successful middle class demands that government answer to them, and not the other way around. Democracies are not developed or sustained by the political extremes- they are the trust and legacy of a vibrant, functioning middle class.
A healthy middle class can be defined in many ways, but in the end, it is human nature that dictates reality. If an individual desires to achieve and succeed are recognized and rewarded by the society, then that society will be a healthy society.
In the most successful societies there is a large middle class, and anyone has the potential to succeed if they have a good idea, commitment to work and plenty of drive. America, Canada, the UK, Australia and Israel are all examples of societies that while very different, are very successful. As the barrier to entry into the middle class becomes more onerous and difficult, requiring expensive and hard to obtain permits and licenses; societies are less successful and become progressively more likely to fail. The nations of the Arab world is a good example of that. There is no middle class in most of the middle east; only an elite, plundering class who are the beneficiaries of the oil wealth the land is blessed with; and a lower class, condemned by the elites to poverty, ignorance and oppression.
When there are few barriers to entering the free market, then the middle class can thrive; and the more successful the entrepreneurs and community becomes, the greater the stake the people have in maintaining peace and prosperity. Thus, it is far more likely that the society will refrain from making war upon it’s neighbors except to defend itself. A prosperous and free middle class, engaging in free trade and pursuing their own lives, liberty and happiness is the ultimate expression of commitment to peace.
The Palestinians live right next door to a very successful society–certainly the most successful and free society in the entire middle east. Israelis know and understand the value of higher education. They know and understand the value of a healthy and free press. A peace treaty with Israel would be the first step to a Palestinian middle class. Within one generation, Palestinians working in economic partnership with Israel would find unheard of economic empowerment.
A peace treaty with Israel would mean that the Palestinians would dictate their own future. A peace treaty with Israel would level the playing field and thus offer each and every Palestinian the opportunity to succeed, and not be subject to failure before they even began. Success is not always easy and success is never guaranteed; but even with failure, a middle class mindset sees new, open doors and possibilities.
It is no coincidence that the Israelis have for years, attempted to facilitate the emergence of a Palestinian middle class. It is also just as clear that successive Palestinian regimes, political leaders and religious authorities have done everything they could to thwart those plans. When Israel pulled out of Gaza, they attempted to leave the structures–apartment buildings and greenhouses and such that might raise the standard of living for the Palestinians who moved in. The results of this generosity can be seen to the right.
It is in the interest of both Palestinian and Arab leaders to blame the failures and poverty of Palestinian society on Israel. In this, they are simply acting out the middle eastern variation of the Marxist drama by claiming that they have been “oppressed” by the very existence of Israel and cashing in on their victimhood. Thus an empowered middle class with a stake in peace and a desire for prosperity and commerce is the last thing the tyrants and terrorists of the middle east would want to emerge from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. A middle class demands accountability. A middle class demands responsible government and a middle class demands opportunity. Thus, the Palestinians are forever doomed to exist in poverty and misery (whether in the primitive “camps” in Gaza; or Lebanon or anywhere in the ME) as an everlasting testament to Israeli and Western “oppression.”
The Palestinian political, cultural and religious leadership in both Hamas and Fatah are united in one area: they are afraid they will rightly be held accountable for the poverty, misery, havoc and destruction they have wrought for the last half century; and for the dark curtain they have drawn around the Arab world. It is the Arab world that has kept generations of Palestinians impoverished and without hope.
Redemption for Palestinians will come about as the result of peace with Israel and the establishment of healthy and vibrant middle class, with middle class sensibilities and values. The hate, bigotry and racism of Islamist extremists will have the potential of finally being replaced with openness and the same commitment to equality and fairness so valued by the middle class of healthy societies worldwide.
For over six decades, the racism and bigotry of the Arab world has been rejected by the middle class of civilized societies. That is something the Palestinians need to think about.
Marx believed that the capitalist system would ignite a worker’s revolution, but the reality is that those workers began to enjoy the creature comforts of the capitalist system and felt themselves empowered by it. As stated earlier, the worse aspect of this reality–from the communist/socialist’s perspective anyway–is that the typical person in the middle class believes that he or she can better themselves by using the many opportunities offered by a liberal, capitalistic democracy. The middle eastern variant of the Marxist dialectic holds that Palestinians–indeed, all Muslims–are oppressed by the decadence of Western/Christian/Jewish capitalism and democracy and that the only way to get rid of this oppression is through jihad. Thus the elites are invested in encouraging jihad and endless war as they live off the oil profits and bask in their own corruption; while the Arab (especially the Palestinian) proletariat can only look forward to blowing themselves up for Allah as the highest achievement they can aspire to. The pursuit of their own happiness or working for their own interests is simply not an option.
From infancy on, the individual is taught to believe that he or she belongs to the Islamic state and exists solely to fulfill that state’s religious revolutionary fantasies. But in reality, those in power are nothing more than the petty bourgeois Marxists whose sole concern is in maintaining their power over others and enriching themselves along the way. Without a chance to pursue their own happiness, there will never be a Palestinian middle class who will have a stake in peace with Israel; and neither will they ever have a stake in peaceful coexistence with any other successful culture or society.