Palestinian Struggle - Reality vs. Rhetoric

Category: Middle East, World Affairs Topics: Conflicts And War, Occupation, Palestine Views: 4227

No other national struggle in the world has assimilated itself, or has been inadvertently assimilated, to symbolize so many things to different people as has the Palestinian struggle. And yet, despite the intricate layers of sense and understanding that have sought to encapsulate the Palestinian struggle, Palestine itself lingers in the world's consciousness merely as a symbol.

Palestine is the last domicile for those seeking deliverance, and the ultimate place next to heaven for those in quest of salvation. There, it has been written that the tireless hunt for spiritual quintessence shall come to an end; the armies shall meet there, once more; they shall fight in the name of God, an Armageddon not like any other, of which victory has already been promised to the righteous.

Palestine has also been a rally cry for the dispossessed and for the aspiring underdog. Its letters have been inscribed in blood on prison walls throughout Israel and the Arab world as a promise of victory or as a lamentation of defeat. When anti-globalization activists take on neoimperialist institutions, they raise a Palestinian flag, and when Venezuela's poor brought Hugo Chavez back to power on April 14, 2002, a Palestinian flag also swayed.

Palestine also had its fare share of political exploitation. Iraqi President Saddam Hussein fought his Iranian foes, the most cruel and costly wars, in the name of Palestine, and in the name of Palestine Iran fought back. Arab nations have long hidden behind liberation-of-Palestine slogans to excuse their ineptitude and to rationalize their oppression.

And in the United States, Palestine takes on a plethora of unique and often deadly meanings. It's a prophecy waiting to be fulfilled and a market for politicians wishing to sell their will to the highest bidder. It's a major and everlasting news headline that, despite its ominous presence, seems to teach and evoke nothing except the intentional misrepresentation of the facts.

As for Palestine the reality -- the suffering, the loss, the hopelessness and hurt, the refugee camps, the checkpoints, the expanding settlements, the encroaching Israeli wall, the ruined lives, the packed prisons, the anger and prevailing sense of betrayal, the desperation and human bombs, the shattered economy, the bulldozed orchards, the 50 years-long fear of the future -- seems to be the least relevant point.

Symbolic Palestine -- Palestine the dream -- has for long hijacked Palestine the reality. Thus when Palestine is discussed, examined and scrutinized, the frame of reference is hardly the one invoked when any other similar conflict is discussed. Its resolution is rarely seen pertinent to international law or human rights and is barely understood -- as it should be -- in terms of power and strategy. Rather it's a subject of flared imaginations, religious fantasy and fictitious constructs.

This realization was my initial thought on the International Conference on "Peace in Palestine" held in Malaysia at the end of March. I addressed the conference, and so did many other human rights activists, academics and religious scholars.

The conference was organized by Peace Malaysia, an umbrella group of more than 1,000 civil society organizations, and was attended by over 500 civil society activists from 34 countries. On the last day of the conference, an action plan of 10 points was drafted and approved. The goal was to engage and enlist civil societies around the world in the attempt to take on Israel for its defiance of international law and denial of Palestinian human rights as well as legal rights.

Despite the lucidity of the stated goal of the gathering and the straightforwardness of its Action Plan, the conference itself was an embodiment of Palestine the dream, not the reality.

The Malaysian government's heavy involvement in the conference, for example was a political message, and a Malaysian message at that. It was an attempt to claim the country's status as a leading Muslim country with many vested interests in the affairs of the Muslim world. But it was a message to the U.S. as well. Allowing Israeli citizens (delegates to the conference) to cross the Malaysian border, for the first time ever, was a subtle assurance that Malaysian politics is different. It's not the kind that espouses the Bin Laden-type activists. It's peaceful and modern. Just like Malaysia itself.

There were also the Israeli delegates who, despite their declared progressiveness and clarity of their peace message, seemed more consumed with the "Jewish identity" of Israel, its "demographic needs" and its imminent "destruction" as a result of a one-state solution than with the justness of the Palestinian struggle and what that justness entails apart from Israel's racist needs and wishes.

Also present was the interminable debate over violence and nonviolence as a means to curb the occupation, a debate that remained detached from the reality on the ground, and solely motivated by ideological principles and spiritual dogmas.

One cannot and must not undermine the efforts of the inspiring activists whose awareness of the Palestinian reality on the ground is unmatched and whose sincere efforts to achieve peace with justice in Palestine translate to more than a few heart-rending words and phrases, but steady action and unequaled readiness to labor and even sacrifice for their beliefs.

However, it's this wrestle between the real as opposed to figurative and abstract awareness that shall define the course of action that is likely to follow. If Palestine continues to be understood -- or misunderstood -- outside its proper frame as a national struggle for rights within the appropriately corresponding international context, then little can be expected from any attempts to remedy its ailments.

It is time to distance Palestine from further interpretations and understand it as it is. Otherwise, Palestine, its people and conflict shall be confined to the ever-augmented edifices of rhetoric with no connection to the real aspiration of a real people with real demands, awaiting justice and a moment of peace.

Ramzy Baroud is a veteran Arab-American journalist. A regular columnist in many English and Arabic publications, he is editor-in-chief of and program producer at Aljazeera Satellite Television.

He is also the editor of the anthology: "Searching Jenin: Eyewitness Accounts of the Israeli Invasion."

To buy "Searching Jenin: Eyewitness Accounts of the Israeli Invasion" CLICK HERE

  Category: Middle East, World Affairs
  Topics: Conflicts And War, Occupation, Palestine
Views: 4227

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Older Comments:
This was a very insiteful article. I definitely learned something from it...namely, the power of symbolism and how symbols can often be used by other people to the detriment of the oppressed.
In context, the problem of Palestine is allied with the problem of Islam and the Muslim Ummah today.
However, before I make any more comments, I would like to say, that the berating of Jews or anti-Semitism does not help the Palestinian people, the Muslim Ummah or other people in this world. They are just an insult to the Muslim concept of justice and fairness. We just need to have the courage to condemn and oppose with all possible strength and force, any and all oppression committed by any army, armed six way to armageddon, against poor, defenseless people who have had everything stolen from them, whether it be an Israeli army, or an American army, or Russian army or even if the army is a Muslim one, such as the one in Sudan who would use their helicopter gunships against defenseless women and children in villages.
As there is a hadith by Rasool(SAW);"He said, every Muslim should help their brother whenever he needs it." A sahabah asked "what if the Muslim is oppressing another." The Rasool(SAW) said "even then you should help him. You should help him by making him stop from oppressing another."
We Muslims now lack unity. Thus we cannot stand up to any oppressors, from without or within. We cannot stand up to Israel, we cannot stand up to the Russians, we cannot stand up to the Indians who for the longest time have kept the people of Kashmir from their natural aspirations and their right to a plebescite. If we Muslims were united, with one voice we could stand up to anyone and everyone. Then let someone try and bomb us all the way from Malaysia to Morrocco, from Azerbaijan to Tanzania.
Of course they cant. Also then we can also stop oppression against other people even if they be not Muslim, for that is the right and duty of the Mumin.

DANIAL said:
I think the picture is out of context and also seems to be a photomontage. Dichotomic rethorics of good and bad doesn't lead to solution. Seems like this article, as many others, falls into the same flaws it tries to challange.
Why won't we look at ways to solve the situation instead of keep on repeating the same things time after time?

This reminds me of the Ottoman Sultan, Abdul Hamid II, when he was asked by the British to sell Palestine, he answered:

"Palestine is not mine to give. It belong to the Umah. I would rather lose parts of my body, bit by bit. However, if you destroyed the Umah, you can have Palestine for free!"

Enough said. The British and thus the West did not want any other part from the Khalifat, but Palestine. They pulled out from all occupied regions of the Khalifat with the exception of Palestine. They claim it to themselves, although God has taken it away from them. You can see that. Who were the people in 1948? Arabic speaking Muslim and Christian Palestinian. It was needed mass immigration, ethnic cleansing, land evacuation causing refugees all over the world in the millions in order to balance the indigineous population with the imported one from mainly Europe.


This picture moves the sincere at heart and stories the like of Muhammad Durra(he was shot to death by Israli soldier while his father tried to shield him, he was 12). As long as the Palestinians stick to the Quran and Sunah, they will be subjected to genocide. Let Islam-bashers and reformists work their way in America and convert the world to a new liberal kind of Islam, maybe a woman prophet, will be claimed for the job this time and Islam as we know it will be over together with the Palestianian Aspirations.
I'm really worried about the future of our Umah.
Peace out!

BNAK said:
Excellent comments by Mr.Bertram. Hats off to you!
Peace to all truly Peace-loving people, and Peace to Peace-hating people too! I am a peace loving man, he he he.

Excellent article and comments. The picture of ..pointing a gun at children makes my blood boil. And these criminals and their supporters dare ask why they hated around the world.

AC FROM UK said:
The picture says it all. But, I will use President G. W. Bush and his pals, the Necons (jews really because that's who they are) logic to make it simple for some of the hard of understanding Americana's.

From first principles set out by Bush/Neocon (2001) definitions, criterions and doctrine
1). Israel = Terrorist Illegal State
2). Jews in Israel and else where who support this Terrorist illegal State = Jewish terrorists
3). USA support for terrorist Israeli State and Jewish terrorists = $4 billion per year + massive military aid to exterminate Palestinians +Other Arabs + Ragheads + Turban wallas + any one who disagrees with USA/Israel + anyone who won't allow USA/Israel to steal their natural resources (i.e. oil etc) under the guise of WTO and free trade.

Hence using Bush/Neocon (2001) definitions, criterions and doctrine, we can combine the three above equations [1] + [2] + [3] and deduce a single simple equation;


I hope this helps some of my dear American friends!

Question. According to Bush/Neocon (2001) definitions, criterions and doctrine, UN Security Council should now be pressured into passing a resolution declaring war on USA. Hell! Who cares about Weapons of Mass Disappearance, or UN resolutions or the TRUTH any way? War should be declared on USA according to Bush/Neocon (2001) definitions, criterions and doctrine. Lets have regime change in Washington. It will be good for the American people and peoples of the world as a whole.
Or at the very least, there should be UN sanctions, UN WMD inspectors and disarmament specialist to disarm the two great threats to World peace- USA and Israel.

Finally, I would like to say God Bless, Help and Protect the truly decent Americans and Jewish peoples around the world working for fairness, truth and Justice for all of man kind.
As for Tony Blair, the Poodle, I hope he looses the election on May 5th 2005. This from an ex-Labour supportor since 18 y

The author (Ramzy Baroud) seems to be in favor of working towards a separate, independent state for the Palestinian people. In addition to feeling that the author has written a powerfully emotive article, I personally agree with what would seem to be Ramzy Baroud's conclusions - such as an immediate need to liberate "Palestine the reality" from "flared imaginations, religious fantasy and fictitious constructs."

Do Americans and Israelis realise what monsters they appear to the world? They live in their own isolated self-created island, deaf and blind to justice, morality and compassion. The Jews are no different from the Nazis. At least Hitler would be proud had he known that he had an attentive pupil in Jews, who have done a remarkably good job in putting to practice his madcap and murderous theories. How in the world do Americans or Christians support them? Or rather how can anyone who believes in a merciful, good, just, loving and compassionaate God, conduct themsleves in such manner and think that God is with them? I just do not see how. God is merciful and he is also just. His justice is not delayed either.

The photograph says it all. An Israeli Jew armed to the teeth, in an assault pose, pointing his weapon at 2 small Palestinian children cowering behind their mother who is obviously not afraid of the moron with the gun. If a lone defenseless unarmed Palestinian woman can have so much courage, I wonder what would be the outcome, if this same woman were armed and able to defend herself and her kids, just as the illegal Jewish settlers are by the Israeli army? I can see why Israeli Jews worry. Truly a cowardly people-and the Americans defend them? Here is a good photo record of "heroic" Jewish accomplishments:

The reality is that the quality of the average American as a normal human being suffers as a result of the destruction of their family and social order and moral values. The following news from today's Guardian well illustrates this. And these are the same children who are then sent off to foreign lands to spread their perversion and cruelty on foreign people:,1280,-4932133,00.html