Which Comes First — the Deed or Its Chroniclers?

How some people manage to demean the message of Palestinian resistance even as they applaud some of its media

In a piece published late last week, “On Goldstone’s Bar Mitzvah and Finkelstein’s Book,” Ramzy Baroud, editor-founder of The Palestine Chronicle concludes thus regarding the shift in world public opinion occasioned over the year and a bit since Operation Cast Lead:

“The times they are a-changing,” wrote Finkelstein [in his most recent volume This Time We Went Too Far: Truth and Consequences of the Gaza Invasion]. True, and that is a most impressive achievement that was made possible by the likes of Jimmy Carter, John Mearsheimer, Stephen Walt, Richard Goldstone, Richard Falk, John Dugard, Finkelstein himself, and the innumerable authors, journalists and bloggers who tirelessly worked to document the truth.

But it is also the courage of the Palestinian people in Gaza and elsewhere that made it possible for us to take such stances. Our efforts dwarf in comparison to their courage, resilience and sacrifices. (Emphasis added — GZ)

The problem here is the tone of that “But it is also…” leading into that last paragraph. The falseness of the note it strikes recalls to mind the old one-liner: “but apart from that, Mrs Lincoln: how was the play?”

Rereading it aloud several more times convinced me that the world was being rendered upside down here. It put me in mind of the comment by Marx, in the Afterword to the Second German Edition of Capital (1873), about the difference between his and Hegel’s views of dialectics: “With [Hegel, dialectics] is standing on its head. It must be turned right side up again, if you would discover the rational kernel within the mystical shell.” Far from being the afterthought, or some piece of historical chopped liver as that “but also…” implied, the Palestinians’ resistance to the designs of the U.S. empire in the first place, imposed at their expense since 1947-48, is what opened up that space into which the Carter-Mearsheimer-Walt chorale have only very lately rushed.

The key point is that in the beginning came the Deed. Resistance came first. This has been and remains the case to date.

“[T]he likes of Jimmy Carter, John Mearsheimer, Stephen Walt, Richard Goldstone, Richard Falk, John Dugard, Finkelstein himself, and the innumerable authors, journalists and bloggers who tirelessly worked to document the truth” sounds like quite a motley crew. Not a few of them have been long-time defenders, or accommodators at one time or another, of the State of Israel’s seemingly self-appointed but actually U.S.-authorised “right” to establish themselves on Palestinian territory since 1947-48. Inquiring minds would like very much to know exactly why, over the last half-decade or so, the Carter-Mearsheimer-Walt chorale et al. seem — at least with regard to the occupation regime in the West Bank and Gaza Strip that Tel Aviv has added to its jurisdiction since June 1967 — to have seen some of the light.

Perhaps a brief historical recap helps shed some light on something more closely approximating the true order of things.

  • The crushing of the First Intifada and imposition of the 1993 Oslo Accords tainted the hard-fought reputation of the PLO as the sole legitimate voice of the Palestinian people with an undeniable stench of opportunism — but it could not and did not divert the Palestinians from their own nation-building goals.
  • The assault on the Second Intifada, from Operation Defensive Shield through the imposition of the Annexation Wall and the imposition of the Road Map took a large tier of new fighting leaders of the Palestinian people from the current generation out of action. Yet, once again, as the 2006 election results proved, it could not and did not deter the Palestinians from seeking new forms in which to organise and perfect their resistance in the post-9/11 conditions of “full-spectrum dominance” over the fate of Arab and other Muslim peoples, imposed by the United States and its proxies in the name of the so-called Global War on Terror.
  • Be it in the so-called open-air prison that is the Gaza Strip, or the West Bank, or the near-sha’atat of refugee camps in Arab states bordering Israel or the more dispersed sha’atat on the continents of Europe, Asia, North or South America, that true mettle of all the Palestinians — their sumout [steadfastness]– has been seen in the persistence of their struggles for rights. At its most dramatic, it persists daily amid the endlessly-locked-down checkpoint-ridden walled-in and walled-out chaos of life in the West Bank under the Israeli occupier and its “Palestinian” policing arms. It has been seen in the shutting down and expulsion of the CIA station in Gaza City in June 2007. The Carter-Mearsheimer-Walt chorale were busily bemoaning the open-air prison of Gaza “about to explode,” but what was their secret hope? Perhaps an uprising against the leaders and organisers of Palestinian resistance? This resistance blew up the Rafah Wall on 23 January 2008. That action enabled 370,000 residents of the Gaza Strip to walk or drive in disciplined and unhurried fashion into Egypt and return — RETURN?!? — within the next 48 hours.
  • Finally, during Operation Cast Lead (December 2008-January 2009) it was the Palestinians of Gaza and their sumout which reminded the rest of this world — under the rain of DIME, white phosphorus and who-knows-how-many-other weapons of mass terror — how to live and how to die with dignity. Never can anyone be permitted to forget that the State of Israel stole, borrowed, leased or bought much of this arsenal from the United States during the Bush and earlier administrations. Not surprisingly, meanwhile, the Carter-Mearsheimer-Walt chorale have yet to come clean on the true source of their “disgust” with Israel’s conduct. Was their aim to see the Palestinian resistance prevail, or was their true aim to see its organised quality incinerated once and for all by all that U.S. and Israeli ordnance? Throughout Operation Cast Lead, Israel’s genocidal assault proceeded without a word of objection from the Office of the President-Elect Barack Hussein Obama. On the contrary: he was being advised on US foreign policy by, among others, Jimmy Carter’s former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski.

Ramzy Baroud’s “but also…” thus serves to draw the veil over a multitude of sins for possibly the next generation. Not the least of these sins is the very real wish of many of the Palestinians’ fair-weather friends that such a dangerously infectious spirit of resistance, and the headache/hangover such a revolutionary example spreads so readily and rapidly around this increasingly connected and networked world, would just go away or otherwise disappear. However, as Karl Marx pointed out in the XIth (and last) of his Theses on Feuerbach (1845): “The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point is to change it.”

It is from where they actually stand — a matter on which they have been denied all choice — that the Palestinians are changing this world.

Gary Zatzman is co-editor of Dossier on Palestine. Read other articles by Gary.

4 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. rhoda said on May 11th, 2010 at 9:44am #

    thank you for this most eloquent piece, it needed saying. the single most heroic people in the world must be honored for their contribution, over and over again. for 62 years, palestinians have been in the forefront of the anti-imperial struggle. it is not a struggle they have chosen. it has chosen them, in order to reclaim their land.

    Ha3ta al-Awda / Until return!

  2. MichaelKenny said on May 11th, 2010 at 10:22am #

    This an odd phenomenon, not just of Mr Baroud’s articles, but of what I call the Palestine Chronicle gang in general, quite a few of whom post article here. They appear to be writing articles in support of the Palestinian cause but when you read them, their basic message is “the whole world is in Israel’s pocket, the Palestinian cause is hopeless, but isn’t that just terrible”. I don’t see how such a discouraging message helps the Palestinian cause! Even if it was true (which it is very far from being!), how do you “support” a cause by sticking a knife in its back? Common sense would suggest that the best way to help the Palestinians would be to spin what could be spun favourably to them and say nothing about the rest. I don’t see what point Mr Baroud and his friends are trying to make by simply repeating Israeli propaganda as if it was true and then adding that it’s terrible that things are so! Indeed, I sometimes wondered if they were really so totally inept or if they weren’t some sort of false flaggers!

  3. Gary Zatzman said on May 11th, 2010 at 1:16pm #

    MichaelKenney wrote: Even if it was true (which it is very far from being!), how do you “support” a cause by sticking a knife in its back?

    As Oscar Wilde pointed out: “True friends stab you in the front.” Translated into modern political parlance: there is such a thing as honestly-intended criticism & self-criticism among comrades fighting on the same, common, united front. But then there’s this other smarmy stuff. Frequently this smarm masks itself as “critical support” of those — like the organisers of actual resistance battles on the ground including thousands of Palestinian families — engaged in the actual heavy lifting. In fact however, whether we are talking about developments inside The Entity, or the West Bank, or the Gaza Strip, or farther afield in the Sha’atat, the key thing about such interventions is that the VOICE of the forces actually waging the struggle is usurped by those pretending to be doing little more more than “chronicling” or “supporting.”

    About 7 years ago, I personally witnessed an exemplary Finkelstein performance at a medium-sized Canadian university. The audience was overwhelmingly Canadian-born plus Arab (mostly Lebanese and many Palestinian) students plus members of the wider Arab community. The emcee was one of those “Just Peace” types, U.S.-born & raised. The moment the Arab members of the audience started to really get their oar in and pose embarrassing questions about how craven some solidarity types were to make double-sure that nothing was done to “upset” any “Jewish” allies, the emceee intervened to say that time was running out and Dr Finkelstein had to get ready for an early flight States-side the next morning…

  4. Rehmat said on May 11th, 2010 at 4:02pm #

    Justice Richard Goldstone though agreed with the findings of his three co-investigators; professor Christine Chinkin (London School of Economics), Hina Jilani, a Human Right advocate from Pakistan and Colonel Desmond Travers (Irish Armed Force) – but, as Zionist Jew, he told Bill Moyers who interviewed him that he supports the Israelis (foreign Jew settlers) to defend themselves against the rocket attacks from the Natives on whose land State of Israel is established…….