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Listening to the Voices of Palestine

by GILAD ATZMON

The consequences of today’s Hamas victory aren’t yet clear, however the election results have revealed beyond doubt some fundamental information about Palestine and the Arab world:

*Democracy = Islam.

Once again the West and especially the Anglo-Americans must acknowledge the obvious fact: democracy in the Arab world means Islam. Unless one is severely Islamophobic this shouldn’t raise a problem. But apparently, we have too many Islam haters both in the left and in the right who happen to be horrified by the success of Islam among the masses. Anyhow, yesterday’s election in Palestine should serve as the last warning for those who now insist upon ‘democratising’ Syria.

*’One Democratic and Secular Palestine’ – may be a dated concept and had better be dropped right away.

The overwhelmingly repeated leftist call for ‘one democratic and secular Palestine’, has apparently very little to do with the Palestinian reality. Apparently, the majority of the Palestinian people in Palestine prefer to live in an Islamic state rather than in a secular and democratic one, with democracy not meaning ‘voice of the people’, but rather a limited and restricted Western definition of it. It is now evident that the call for a secular Palestinian state was there to serve the interests of some left-wing Zionist schools a la Yossi Beilin who outrageously denounced the Hamas just days before the election. Surprisingly enough, this very call against the Hamas and in favour of a democratic secular state is rather popular amongst different factions of Jewish Anti-Zionist and Palestinian solidarity groups. Let’s all face it; the Palestinian people have chosen to live in a Muslim state rather than in a secular one. If we are as democratic as we claim to be, it is down to us to respect and welcome the Palestinian people’s choice. I would suggest that to support Palestine is to support the Palestinian people and their right of return regardless of their political, theological or cultural choices.

However, we have to remember that almost half of the Palestinian people voted for the Fatah movement, in other words, very many Palestinians may prefer to live in a secular state.

It is necessary to add as well that the vote today represents the choice of the Palestinian people who live in Palestine. It is rather possible that an election that would include Diaspora Palestinians in the region and overseas might well lead to different results altogether. Dealing with the Palestinian cause, we must take such a possibility into consideration. At the end of the day, the majority of Palestinians live outside of Palestine, they were ethnically cleansed in 1948 and ever since then.

* The Left discourse has lost its relevancy; it desperately craves an immediate face-lift.

For more than a while it is rather clear that left ideology struggles to find its way within the emerging battle between the West and the Near East. The parameters of the so-called ‘cultural clash’ are so cleverly set that the ‘rational’ and ‘atheist’ leftist is always doomed to find oneself closer to Donald Rumsfeld than to a Muslim cleric. As long as left ideology is entangled with rational and anti-religious thinking parameters, it will be a struggle for it to ally itself with today’s oppressed, i.e. Arabs. If the European left insists upon maintaining its relevance, it must reassess its worldviews regarding rationality, religion and especially Islam. If the left insists upon maintaining its relevancy it must re-evaluate the entire idea of working class politics. Apparently, the oppressed Iraqis have very little in common with the 19th century European working class. The left must engage in a new terminology of ethnicity and cultural differentiation. Rather than imposing our beliefs upon others, we better learn to understand what others believe in. A scrutiny of the notions of Jihad and Shahid are no doubt a good place to start.

*While the Israeli street is showing some real signs of mental fatigue, the Palestinians happen to be as resilient as ever.

As it happens, the Israelis are now drifting en mass towards Kadima, the new political agenda founded two months ago by the gravely ill Sharon. In fact, there is nothing new or innovative about Kadima, it was created to re-launch the old left Zionist fantasy of a Jewish, racist, national state with an overwhelmingly Jewish majority and dominance. Apparently, The Israelis love this option. They love the idea of the resurrection of the East European ghetto, right in the heart of the Middle East. Seemingly, the Fatah was willing to negotiate with this Israeli agenda. Rationally speaking, it is impossible to blame them. The Fatah did realise a while ago that it is quite impossible to militarily defeat American-backed Israeli might. Moreover, it is crucial to mention that almost half of the Palestinian people in Palestine agree with the Fatah. They just couldn’t bear the Israeli occupation anymore. The Hamas, on the other hand, said NO to Israel and as we happen to learn this morning, the majority of the Palestinian people followed the Hamas. They said NO to Zionist segregation, they said NO to Israeli occupation, they said NO to shredding Palestine into Bantustans. Moreover, they say NO to the idea of a Jewish state in the midst of Palestine. They say NO to the idea of a political settlement imposed by America. They say YES to an Islamic Palestine. In short, while the Israelis are showing some clear signs of defeatism, the majority of the Palestinians insist upon claiming their legitimate rights. I have no doubt that justice for the Palestinian people will prevail.

Whether the Hamas has the power to move things forward for the Palestinians in the short term is hard to say. Moreover, the Hamas is a large movement with more than just a single voice. For instance, for more than a while I am aware of some leaders within the Hamas who believe that the two state solution may guarantee separation from the Israelis and their Western liberal lifestyle. In other words, even within the Hamas there are those who believe in two state solution, though for very different reasons. However, it will be interesting to watch what a pragmatic Hamas’s agenda is going to be.

Today more than any other day, it is rather clear that supporting Palestine and the Palestinian people must be grounded on listening to the many voices of Palestine. Rather than imposing our worldviews on the Palestinian people, we better let the Palestinians be. We should listen to them and try to find our way within their complicated cause.

GILAD ATZMON was born in Israel and served in the Israeli military. He is the author of two novels: A Guide to the Perplexed and the recently released My One and Only Love. Atzmon is also one of the most accomplished jazz saxophonists in Europe. His recent CD, Exile, was named the year’s best jazz CD by the BBC. He now lives in London and can be reached at: atz@onetel.net.uk

 

Gilad Atzmon’s latest book is: The Wandering Who? A Study of Jewish Identity Politics

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