Fw: ZNet Update -- News and Said essay on the future...

Lutfi M. Hussein lutfi.hussein at ASU.EDU
Sun Apr 7 22:06:40 UTC 2002

----- Original Message -----
From: "Michael Albert" <sysop at zmag.org>
To: <znetupdates at zmag.org>
Sent: Sunday, April 07, 2002 3:28 AM
Subject: ZNet Update -- News and Said essay on the future...

> Hello,
> The horrible events in the Mideast persist. We hope you are working to
> impact them wherever you may be, as with working against the war on
> terrorism, and working for social justice more generally -- three sides
> of one coin.
> Updates on ZNet (www.zmag.org) are currently very frequent...and we hope
> you will visit the site to make use of the materials we are
> generating/assembling.
> One of the focuses on the top page, in addition to the Mideast, is the
> upcoming demonstrations in Washington DC and San Francisco. Turning out
> for major events is always important, not only to demonstrate our scale
> and focus to elites, but also to uplift ourselves and inspire potential
> future allies. But even more than usual, for diverse reasons the whole
> world is going to be examining these demonstrations to see if activism
> in the U.S. -- as in Rome, Barcelona, and elsewhere -- is back on track.
> Let's show them that it is.
> Elites yield victories only to social movements that raise social costs
> that elites do not wish to endure. But raising such high costs for
> elites requires that movements attain massive scale and steadfast focus.
> Seeking such scale and focus must therefore be central to our efforts.
> Regarding achieving such ends for the Mideast as well as more generally,
> here is the latest essay from Edward Said...
> ------
> Thinking ahead: After survival, what happens?
> By Edward Said
> Anyone with any connection at all to Palestine is today in a state of
> stunned outrage and shock. While almost a repeat of what happened in
> 1982, Israel's current all-out colonial assault on the Palestinian
> people (with George Bush's astoundingly ignorant and grotesque support)
> is indeed worse than Sharon's two previous mass forays in 1971 and 1982
> against the Palestinian people. The political and moral climate today is
> a good deal cruder and reductive, the media's destructive role (which
> has played the part almost entirely of singling out Palestinian suicide
> attacks and isolating them from their context in Israel's 35-year
> illegal occupation of the Palestinian territories) greater in favouring
> the Israeli view of things, the US's power more unchallenged, the war
> against terrorism has more completely taken over the global agenda and,
> so far as the Arab environment is concerned, there is greater
> incoherence and fragmentation than ever before.
> Sharon's homicidal instincts have been enhanced (if that's the right
> word) by all of the above, and magnified to boot. This in effect means
> that he can do more damage with more impunity than before, although he
> is also more deeply undermined than before in all his efforts as well as
> in his entire career by the failure that comes with single-minded
> negation and hate, which in the end nourish neither political nor even
> military success. Conflicts between peoples such as this contain more
> elements than can be eliminated by tanks and air power, and a war
> against unarmed civilians -- no matter how many times Sharon lumberingly
> and mindlessly trumpets his stupid mantras about terror -- can never
> bring a really lasting political result of the sort his dreams tells him
> he can have. Palestinians will not go away. Besides, Sharon will almost
> certainly end up disgraced and rejected by his people. He has no plan,
> except to destroy everything about Palestine and the Palestinians. Even
> in his enraged fixation on Arafat and terror, he is failing to do much
> more than raise the man's prestige while essentially drawing attention
> to the blind monomania of his own position.
> In the end he is Israel's problem to deal with. For us, our main
> consideration now is morally to do everything in our power to make
> certain that despite the enormous suffering and destruction imposed on
> us by a criminal war, we must go on. When a renowned and respected
> retired politician like Zbigniew Brzezinski says explicitly on national
> television that Israel has been behaving like the white supremacist
> regime of apartheid South Africa, one can be certain that he is not
> alone in this view, and that an increasing number of Americans and
> others are slowly growing not only disenchanted but also disgusted with
> Israel as a hugely expensive and draining ward of the United States,
> costing far too much, increasing American isolation, and seriously
> damaging the country's reputation with its allies and its citizens. The
> question is what, in this most difficult of moments, can we rationally
> learn about the present crisis that we need to include in our plans for
> the future?
> What I have to say now is highly selective, but it is the modest fruit
> of many years working on behalf of the Palestinian cause as someone who
> is from both Arab and Western worlds. I neither know nor can say
> everything, but here are some of the handful of thoughts I can
> contribute at this very difficult hour. Each of the four points that
> follow here is related to the other.
> 1) For better or for worse, Palestine is not just an Arab and Islamic
> cause, it is important to many different, contradictory and yet
> intersecting worlds. To work for Palestine is necessarily to be aware of
> these many dimensions and constantly to educate oneself in them. For
> that we need a highly educated, vigilant and sophisticated leadership
> and democratic support for it. Above all we must, as Mandela never tired
> of saying about his struggle, be aware that Palestine is one of the
> great moral causes of our time. Therefore, we need to treat it as such.
> It's not a matter of trade, or bartering negotiations, or making a
> career. It is a just cause which should allow Palestinians to capture
> the high moral ground and keep it.
> 2) There are different kinds of power, military of course being the most
> obvious. What has enabled Israel to do what it has been doing to the
> Palestinians for the past 54 years is the result of a carefully and
> scientifically planned campaign to validate Israeli actions and,
> simultaneously, devalue and efface Palestinian actions. This is not just
> a matter of maintaining a powerful military but of organising opinion,
> especially in the United States and Western Europe, and is a power
> derived from slow, methodical work where Israel's position is seen as
> one to be easily identified with, whereas the Palestinians are thought
> of as Israel's enemies, hence repugnant, dangerous, against "us." Since
> the end of the Cold War, Europe has faded into near-insignificance so
> far as the organisation of opinion, images, and thought are concerned.
> America (outside of Palestine itself) is the main arena of battle. We
> have simply never learned the importance of systematically organising
> our political work in this country on a mass level, so that for instance
> the average American will not immediately think of "terrorism" when the
> word "Palestinian" is pronounced. That kind of work quite literally
> protects whatever gains we might have made through on-the-ground
> resistance to Israel's occupation. What has enabled Israel to deal with
> us with impunity, therefore, has been that we are unprotected by any
> body of opinion that would deter Sharon from practicing his war crimes
> and saying that what he has done is to fight terrorism. Given the
> immense diffusionary, insistent, and repetitive power of the images
> broadcast by CNN, for example, in which the phrase "suicide bomb" is
> numbingly repeated a hundred times an hour for the American consumer and
> tax-payer, it is the grossest negligence not to have had a team of
> people like Hanan Ashrawi, Leila Shahid, Ghassan Khatib, Afif Safie --
> to mention just a few -- sitting in Washington ready to go on CNN or any
> of the other channels just to tell the Palestinian story, provide
> context and understanding, give us a moral and narrative presence with
> positive, rather than merely negative, value. We need a future
> leadership that understands this as one of the basic lessons of modern
> politics in an age of electronic communication. Not to have understood
> this is part of the tragedy of today.
> 3) There is simply no use operating politically and responsibly in a
> world dominated by one superpower without a profound familiarity and
> knowledge of that superpower -- America, its history, its institutions,
> its currents and counter-currents, its politics and culture; and, above
> all, a perfect working knowledge of its language. To hear our spokesmen,
> as well as the other Arabs, saying the most ridiculous things about
> America, throwing themselves on its mercy, cursing it in one breath,
> asking for its help in another, all in miserably inadequate fractured
> English, shows a state of such primitive incompetence as to make one
> cry. America is not monolithic. We have friends and we have possible
> friends. We can cultivate, mobilise, and use our communities and their
> affiliated communities here as an integral part of our politics of
> liberation, just as the South Africans did, or as the Algerians did in
> France during their struggle for liberation. Planning, discipline,
> coordination. We have not at all understood the politics of
> non-violence. Moreover, neither have we understood the power of trying
> to address Israelis directly, the way the ANC addressed the white South
> Africans, as part of a politics of inclusion and mutual respect.
> Coexistence is our answer to Israeli exclusivism and belligerence. This
> is not conceding: it is creating solidarity, and therefore isolating the
> exclusivists, the racists, the fundamentalists.
> 4) The most important lesson of all for us to understand about ourselves
> is manifest in the terrible tragedies of what Israel is now doing in the
> occupied territories. The fact is that we are a people and a society,
> and despite Israel's ferocious attack against the PA, our society still
> functions. We are a people because we have a functioning society which
> goes on - and has gone on for the past 54 years -- despite every sort of
> abuse, every cruel turn of history, every misfortune we have suffered,
> every tragedy we have gone through as a people. Our greatest victory
> over Israel is that people like Sharon and his kind do not have the
> capacity to see that, and this is why they are doomed despite their
> great power and their awful, inhuman cruelty. We have surmounted the
> tragedies and memories of our past, whereas such Israelis as Sharon have
> not. He will go to his grave only as an Arab-killer, and a failed
> politician who brought more unrest and insecurity to his people. It must
> surely be the legacy of a leader that he should leave something behind
> upon which future generations will build. Sharon, Mofaz, and all the
> others associated with them in this bullying, sadistic campaign of death
> and carnage will have left nothing except gravestones. Negation breeds
> negation.
> As Palestinians, I think we can say that we left a vision and a society
> that has survived every attempt to kill it. And that is something. It is
> for the generation of my children and yours, to go on from there,
> critically, rationally, with hope and forbearance.
> Michael Albert
> Z Magazine / ZNet
> sysop at zmag.org
> www.zmag.org
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