I confess: I have as much trouble figuring out exactly what “our” culture, values and (the grander and even more fashionable- sounding) civilisation are as I do with those of the “West.” Still, if ignorance, hypocrisy and a penchant for losing, refined to an art form, are aspects of any or all of these (they are certainly predominant enough), then we may rest assured: the West’s alleged onslaught on our civilisation has been a dismal failure. If anything, each B-52 sortie and every Sharon-driven massacre seem to strengthen our resolve to cling even more tenaciously to these apparently precious cultural and civilisational attributes.
Blaming the oppressor for the ignorance and stupidity of the oppressed, no less than for their legitimate anger and/or futile acts of desperation, is valid enough. It is woefully inadequate, however, when we are trying to identify ways in which the oppressed can achieve liberation, and not just plead their cause before some ethereal court of global conscience. Barak, followed soon after by Sharon, literally pushed the Intifada to armed violence; the degradation of Palestinian armed struggle into the ubiquitous suicide operations of Hamas and Jihad was practically ordained by both the incalculable imbalance of the antagonists’ capacity to deploy armed violence, and the infinite brutality and lawlessness of the Israeli occupation. “Why are their children, their lives any more precious than ours?” The rhetorical question is bitterly genuine — especially bitter in view of the hypocrisy and racism that so clearly governs the responses of the world’s masters to “our” pain and suffering as opposed to “theirs.”
These arguments have been raised over and over again, and not just by Arabs. The evidence is out there, for all to see (available, in the age of the Internet, at the click of a mouse), exposed and passionately argued by Palestinians from the occupied territories and outside them; by courageous Israelis from across the Green Line and by many “alternative,” if besieged, voices in the West. It has been eloquently and tenaciously expressed by that unique embodiment of human civilisation, British journalist Robert Fisk, who, having been beaten almost to death by Afghan refugees last week, was nevertheless able to say that he understood their anger.
Sharon could not have expected more of the latest wave of Hamas and Jihad suicide operations had he ordered them himself. This fact, glaringly obvious to anybody who is not totally blinded by vested interest, bigotry, stupidity or a combination thereof, says a lot about Sharon and the Israeli occupation. It also says a lot about Hamas and Jihad, and about the rest of “us” as well. Hamas and Jihad, Israel’s “archenemies,” carry out Sharon’s will, and “we” applaud. When we’re not applauding, we’re ranting and raving at the unfairness of it all; and when we’re not ranting and raving, we’re apologising and rationalising — all the while taking cold comfort in the justice of our cause.
The Intifada is all but lost. Arafat, besieged and humiliated, is on death row, his very life hostage to Sharon’s whim and a hitherto reluctant go-ahead from Washington. Sharon has finally been able to get in on the “war against terror,” with America’s blessing. The Palestinians are on the edge of civil war. The Arab regimes, cowering in fear of the next blow (the destruction of the PA, phase II of the war against terror, both? the prospects of chaos and mayhem are too horrific to conceive), are unable to hold a foreign ministers’ meeting.
But hey, what else could we do? They’ve forced us to it.
Meanwhile, we are supposed to look forward to Egyptian “character actor” Mohamed Sobhi performing no less than 14 roles in a TV serial dramatising the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which apparently has had millions spent on it and is to be broadcast in many parts of our glorious Arab nation. The casting is apt. Sobhi is symptomatic of “the state of the nation” — or is it civilisation? Several years ago I had to suffer through a Hamlet performed by this man, hailed as one of our great actors. I’m no drama critic, but even I could recognise that Sobhi’s acting skills seem to lie precisely in “saw[ing] the air too much with… [his] hands” and “tear[ing] a passion to tatters.” Little wonder, perhaps, that he is so well admired; tearing a passion to tatters seems to be a particular predilection of “our civilisation” these days.
The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, as any moderately intelligent person who has taken the time to look it up knows, was invented by the Russian secret police to divert the masses’ anger away from the viciously oppressive Tzarist regime and to the Jews. It is an age-old trick, and is currently being deployed with much greater sophistication against Arabs and Muslims: Western capitalism’s Jews of choice at the beginning of the 21st century.
Sharon is murdering more Palestinians than ever before. Dubya is itching to expand his “war against terror” by targeting more Arabs and Muslims. The Arab regimes are cowering in fear and the masses are seething in futile anger. The region is poised over a precipice of chaos and mayhem. But hey, we cling to our civilisation. Funny that we should do so by reproducing one of the ugliest products of the West’s.
Mr. Hani Shukrallah is Managing Editor of Al-Ahram Weekly.