To hear how Palestinians are characterized in the US media, one is apt to believe that Palestinians are a monolithic group with one mindset. But as often the case, conventional wisdom is wrong. There is a diversity of opinion on just about every subject imaginable. The only point of universal agreement is the understanding that Palestinian
dispossession at the hands of Zionist designs has been a price paid by few groups in the history of the world.
Presently a raging debate is running regarding the nature of how the struggle for freedom should be conducted. There are those who believe that an armed struggle is necessary. Within this camp there is division as to the nature of the targets. Another camp wants to wage a campaign of “Civil Disobedience” along the lines of Thoreau, Gandhi and Martin Luther King.
These debates take place far outside the reach of newspaper headlines or the glare of television cameras. The debates take place in living rooms across the world as well as living rooms under intense and suffocating Israeli occupation. Everybody has an opinion and developing a consensus is not likely to emerge in the near future. There are even groups, although thankfully a minority, who believe the time for struggling for freedom has passed and Palestinians must rely solely on American largesse to achieve political aims.
This last group represented by an elite weaned on CIA perks, like Dahlan and Rajoub, may represent the best choices for US interests, but these PA security chiefs have marginalized themselves with the Palestinian people through corruption. Arafat may be blamed for using corruption to control those under him, although he personally lives a Spartan life. He has used the character flaws of those under him to create nothing but corrupt possible replacements.
Without a doubt, one of the most laughable phrases to come out of the Bush administration rhetoric is the American call for “transparency and democracy” inside the Palestinian government. The US has used corruption in the Middle East from their very first involvement. The US also supports every authoritarian regime in the region. Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, and Jordan are true authoritarian monarchies. The US press seems not to mention this very often. Egypt is known to be the most corrupt country in the region and Saudi Arabia’s prince Bandar has said that if $50 billion has been stolen in his country, this was not that big of a deal.
Unfortunately, Palestinian liberals remained too quiet in the past concerning corruption and transparency. They feared that criticism of the PA would have weakened Arafat and increased HAMAS’ role in intra-Palestinian politics. HAMAS, whatever one thinks of them, is known to be free of corruption. Palestinians are learning that there is never a bad time to speak against authoritarian and corrupt institutions. Palestinians do not need the US to instruct them on their deserving freedom.
But the Palestinian struggle is not that easy to commandeer, not for the US, not for Arafat and certainly not for Sharon. There are over 3.5 million Palestinians in Diaspora. We have something to say about the nature of the struggle. More and more Palestinians are suggesting that there can be one state, two states, three states, or no states…but until the Middle East is rid of the vile and racist ideology known as Zionism, there can never really be a peace that can last.
I see no reason to stand mute on this subject. As long as there is ANY state in the area that defines citizenship by racial, ethnic or religious categorization, there will never be a lasting peace. Zionism is the last vestige of sanctioned racial ideology on the planet. It was born in the 19th Century and shared the same racial premises of Fascism, Apartheid and Nazism. Israel inserts the notion of insuring a “Jewish majority” into its national charter. “Jewishness” becomes the driving political force. One can be an atheist and still be Jewish, as long as one has certain genetic heritage or lineage.
So let me be clear. The Palestinian struggle is actually a human struggle that transcends Palestine. As long as there is Zionism, the struggle will continue. As long as people will have rights based on their race instead of “the content of their character”, the struggle will continue. There is no longer a place for Zionism in the 21st Century. It must go the way of Apartheid. It must go the way of Nazism. It must go the way of Fascist nationalism.
Is there a difference in American nationalism and Zionist nationalism? You bet, and the distinction requires elucidation. The Unites States is a nation of its citizens, regardless of race or religion. Once upon a time the US was not so distinguished. Once upon a time a black man was considered only 3/5 of a man and had no vote. One had to be a white-male-property owner to be a full citizen. But not anymore. American nationalism BY DEFINITION only requires citizenship, without regard to race, creed or ethnicity.
A Zionist Israel states that the country must have a Jewish majority. One’s nationality is defined by one’s race. It is built into the fabric of its society. Regardless of what Arafat, what Bush, what Sharon say…the Palestinian struggle will continue until the last vestige of racial politics is eradicated from the planet. One day there will be a country in that part of the world where Jew and gentile will live in harmony without the privileges and chains of racial identification. These are the values that I grew up with and owe to the memory of my father…and bequeath to the budding minds of my sons.