Edward Said's analysis in the Guardian
October 12, 2000 5:35 PM   Subscribe

Edward Said's analysis in the Guardian of the fatally flawed Peace Process and its inevitable demise. "Israel's priorities were always put first, as was its bottomless insecurity and its preposterous demands. No attempt was made to address the fundamental injustice done when Palestinians as a people were dispossessed in 1948."
posted by lagado (13 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
This is an excellent article, I encourage anyone who wonders why the "peace process" is currently breaking down to read this and understand what is really happening...
posted by s10pen at 6:04 PM on October 12, 2000

Said was a member of the Palestinian "government in exile" prior to having something of a falling-out with Arafat. While there is more than enough blame to go around these days, the politics within the Palestinian movement doesn't get much attention from the media.
posted by tranquileye at 7:23 PM on October 12, 2000

This article is what some people were saying, including myself, in the other thread, but with a lot more eloquent writing talent.
posted by Zool at 7:48 PM on October 12, 2000

Yes, you should try not to have your argument undermined by using racially loaded language.

Here are an article by Edward Said on American Zionism. Here's Part II.

These appeared on ZMag which features articles by other famous anti-zionists as Noam Chomsky.
posted by lagado at 8:32 PM on October 12, 2000

Lagado, the term "zionist" is a bit loaded itself, mostly because of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion - a forgery that was nevertheless used as a major tool against Eastern Eurpoean Jews during the Third Reich. It's not the best term in the world.

But I'm assuming you mean "zionist" in the extreme, extreme right-wing no-tolerance we'll-kill-every-Arab Israel-is-ours-forever supremely Orthodox "Jews" - and yes, I use that term in quotes. I don't want any of these psychopaths representing me. I'd equate them with the Aryan Christian movement in terms of credibility and how much I dislike them.

Anyone ever read Everything is Under Control by Robert Anton Wilson? In the intro, he talks about Ezra Pound's Cantos, how there's a stanza where he says that all Jews take the hit because of the actions of a few zealots. To me, that's a logical theory; there might be a few very powerful Jewish leaders who think they're King David and who are pressing a five thousand year old vendetta; after all, The Holy Land is ours - the Bible says so. Exactly the same tactic that Christian fundamentalists use. Well, you know what? Your book says that Israel is yours forever. My book says that if a radioactive spider bites you, you get incredible powers. IT DOESN'T MAKE IT TRUE!

The problem is that eventually people stop focusing on the few bad apples and pay attention only to the barrel. As Wilson writes, Exra Pound later went on Italian radio and started ranting about "the Jews," as if every Jew in the world was at fault for the evils perpetrated by a few. By that reasoning, I should blame Italians for the Inquisition.

In Hebrew school there was, besides religious instruction and prepping for your bar/bat mitzvah, what could only be called indoctrination. I think this is what Mr. Said is getting at. A lot of American Jews who don't have direct experience with the problem are shouting, very loudly, without even realizing what they're saying.

As I think about it, I realize that the 1948 decision to just create the nation of Israel out of nothing, forcing millions of Palestinian civilians out of their homes, was one of the worst things that could have happened. It has nothing to do with Judiasm and everything to do with conquest.

It's very rough for me, because from a very early age I was fed this line. I can see that now. I can glimpse what Said mentions in his article, and quite frankly I don't want to be lumped in with these maniacs.

They are portraying themselves as wounded victims that will never let anyone hurt them again. With their actions, they are desecrating what they claim to fight for.
posted by solistrato at 9:10 PM on October 12, 2000

I've argued elsewhere that the true consequences of the First World War have yet to work themselves out. Though the collapse of the Austrian Empire gave us the messy constructs of central Europe which precipitated the rise of Hitler, the fall of the Ottomans set in motion the realignment of the region from Albania to Iraq.

solistrato: the British have a fair bit to answer for, or at least Arthur James Balfour does. After all, we offered the Balfour Declaration to the Zionists in 1917 alongside similar promises to the Arabs, and subsequently managed to alienate all sides in the process with such double-deals. Hence the manufactured 'mandate' states of the Middle East: the monarchies declared by the British, and the republics declared by the French.

And that's the crisis that the region faces: there's no tradition of peaceful political transition. Meaning that Bashar Al-Assad and King Abdullah have to secure their own regimes without the paradoxical guarantee of military force; that Mubarak's time is drawing to a close, as is Arafat's. It's unsettling to think that both Jordan and Syria are particularly susceptible to the influence of Hamas and Hizbollah, and that the generation which may wield power across the Middle East is one accustomed to guerilla war, on both sides.
posted by holgate at 10:03 PM on October 12, 2000

I agree, the last thing I was to do is derail this conversation by appearing to attack the Jewish people as whole.

I'm sure I'm correct in saying that the movement for the establishment (and defence) of the state of Israel is called Zionism. It is a nationalist ideology which gained strength particularly after WWII.

It cannot be taken as a term for labelling all jews and many jews are actively against Zionism (e.g. Chomsky).

This term, unfortunately, has been muddled by the misuse of the term by white supremacist nutcases and all the anti-semitic crap that goes with it. The document called "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion" was forged by the czarist secret police before the russian revolution and has been trotted out ever since by these shitheads.

As Said mentioned, this entire topic is very loaded, especially in the US. It's important not to get side tracked from the main point by claims and counter claims of anti-semitism while criticising Israel's behaviour in Palestine.

Rather, it should be seen in the same terms as, say, Bosnia or Kosovo.

posted by lagado at 10:18 PM on October 12, 2000

well said, holgate
posted by lagado at 10:21 PM on October 12, 2000

"I realize that the 1948 decision to just create the nation of Israel out of nothing, forcing millions of Palestinian civilians out of their homes, was one of the worst things that could have happened."

Does anyone know the history of Palestinian national identity, by the way? (Honest question--I really don't know.) My impression was that Palestine, between the destruction of Jerusalem in the first century and the fall of the Ottoman Empire in the 20th, was basically a colony of one occupying power or another. When did the people who live there decide to start self-identifying as a "Palestinian nation"?
posted by shylock at 11:52 PM on October 12, 2000

When everyone else started identifying themselves with nations. It's easy to forget that most of world was part of one empire or another until the 20th century.

The Palestinians have a sense of themselves as being distinct from other Arabs like the Lebanese and Syrians. They remain identifiable as Palestinians even when in exile.

Also, I suspect having your land stolen from you by foreign 'settlers' is a great way to sharpen your evolving sense of national identity.

holgate would no doubt be better at answering this but I believe the first talk of establishing an independent Palestinian nation state was after the fall of the Ottomans and the establishment of British rule after World War I.

posted by lagado at 12:27 AM on October 13, 2000

The postwar Israeli Zionist movement (to distinguish it from, say, Zionist socialists in the 19th century) was actively, violently opposed to Palestinian nationalism (for pragmatic reasons). The British, who controlled the area after WWI destroyed the Ottomans, were for Palestinian nationalism, were generally seen as for the creation of a Palestinian state. The modern state of Israel basically began as the result of a guerilla war. People at war do terrible things, and I think that the national identity of Israel is still steeped in the idea that there is no state without bloodshed.

A hundred years from now, maybe that will have changed -- America in 1926 was pretty complacent about such things, Good Neighbor policies and invasions of Haiti notwithstanding.
posted by snarkout at 8:07 AM on October 13, 2000

lagado: British diplomacy throughout the establishment (1917-22) and administration (1923-48) of the mandate was a mess. In a sense, it was conducted with the arrogance of imperialism: diplomats were happy to conduct separate dialogues with both sides right up to 1948, favouring one over the other depending on immediate benefits. (The Foreign Office has always tended to be more Arabist than its political masters.)

The British ideal in 1917 -- and again, this shows the thick-headedness which went into the carve-up of the region - was that the Palestinian Arabs would be happy with the "Transjordan". Which, in hindsight, was ridiculous. It was refined in 1922 by Churchill's White Paper which stated

the terms of the Declaration referred to do not contemplate that Palestine as a whole should be converted into a Jewish National Home, but that such a Home should be founded `in Palestine.'

You can imagine how that pleased precisely no-one. And we're still living with the consequences of Article 25 of the mandate itself.
posted by holgate at 9:26 AM on October 13, 2000

lagado also makes the good point that nationalism is most often an oppositional phenomenon: you shape an ideological nationalism when it comes under threat.

The word "Bantustan" has been bandied about, and while it's not historically accurate, the ghettoisation of Palestinians in the occupied territories (I use the term deliberately) has similar consequences to the pathetic state-building of the apartheid era. These people are legally stateless: they have no internationally-recognised rights of citizenship. And as Zionism itself proved, nothing fuels nationalism more than statelessness.
posted by holgate at 9:30 AM on October 13, 2000

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