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Normalization Is In Your Blood by Adel Samara
The apparent and the latent And the question of Colonizability
A Book Review
By Magid Shihade
Birzeit University – Occupied Palestine
In his recent book, written in Arabic, Adel Samara discusses two layers of normalization that Palestinians and Arabs in general have developed toward the Zionist settler colonial structure that was created in Palestine causing the destruction of the Palestinian society, it dispersion, and dispossession.
According to Adel Samara, the normalization has taken place in Palestinian and Arab society as a result of an internalization of a defeat that Arabs have experienced at the hand of Israel in 1948, and more so in the 1967 War. He argues that although the lineage of the defeat goes much in history to earlier times, but for the purpose of much focused discussion around the question of Palestine, he argues that first step that took place in this process of normalization actually goes back to 1916 Sykes-Picot agreement, which was the agreement between the different European powers, especially Britain and France, to divide the Arab world into fractured states, and make space in Palestine for a Jewish Zionist entity that will be used as a front to suppress and subjugate the Arab region to Western domination and hegemony.
Through this plan, and with the help of Arab self interested elites, the first stage of coalition between Western imperialism and Arab leaders started and has shaped later development of normalization. By 1948, and more so since 1967, and by separating the Palestinian cause from the general Arab cause, a weaker Palestinian and Arab society has become less immune to the normalization of the Zionist entity. Since then, Arab society has been a target of tripartite aggression against their memory, dignity, and resolve.
The tripartite link has been in place since 1948, and more so since 1967, according to which the Israeli Zionist state, Western imperialism, and Arab leaders and elites is in practice a coalition in the war against the Arab people, their consciousness and their very existence. This coalition is there to pacify the common person, and the whole society to create in an environment of defeatism, and thus internalize a structure of normalization that includes not only the economic part, but also the culture, which is even more dangerous, and which is a point that I will come back later in the essay to discuss in more details.
Although after 1948 there was a boycott by Arab states against Israel, it was an official one, and did not engage the Arab public. On the other hand, while the Camp David agreement seemed to be a blow to Arab unified front against Israeli aggression, it was also the beginning of Arab public boycott campaign launched by the Egyptian society against Israel and any form of normalizations with it and as a reaction to the official state position in its relation to the Israeli settler state. Thus, Egyptians refused to normalize relations with Israel economically and culturally as a counter effect to their regime's approach in this respect, and it managed to limit the state official normalization with the Zionist regime.
In Palestine, and after the war of 67, where many Palestinians started to normalize with Israel through working in Israel and the consumption of Israeli goods that flooded the Palestinian market in those areas, the Palestinian society at large took its first step in countering this normalization only after the start of the first Palestinian Intifada of 1987. Then a public and popular campaign took place by cutting all economic ties with Israel, where workers stopped working in Israeli businesses, and boycotted Israeli goods available in the Palestinian market, and by starting all kinds of projects for self reliance.
This first step of people's war against normalization was not sustainable in the faces of many obstacles and due to many factors. This public campaign needed also a national elite that can create and develop local opportunities and resources, which was very limited. It needed also a very important support by the Palestinian leadership, whose responsibility was supposed to be by giving the funds needed to local sustainability, but it failed to do so, and this was not by accident. Palestinian political leadership was working with Arab leaders and in cooperation with the West to suppress the spread of this phenomenon not only within Palestine but as important in the Arab world and among its public.
The Oslo process came only to do so; to suppress this campaign and further colonize the Palestinian and Arab society, and maintain the tripartite structure (Western Imperialism, Arab leaders/regimes, and Israeli settler state), whose very core interest is to suppress the Palestinian and Arab public at large and hence Oslo was the tool.
Since then, a much more aggressive campaign in the war against the Arab public has been taking place in normalizing the society economically and culturally, in order to maintain and entrench further the tripartite structure in the region and beyond. We should not forget, that it was Oslo as tool that helped the American Zionist empire to normalize its presence in many parts of the world that historically stood with the Palestinian people. It was a tool that Israel and the US has used to roll back the Third World block and further colonize these states and societies economically and culturally. When in the past Third World leaders stood with the Palestinian cause, after Oslo they could not be more Catholic than the Pope.
Palestinian and Arab leadership, being part of the tripartite war machine against the Arab public, has been since then waging a new battle to further colonize Arab society and normalize Israel though different approaches that go beyond the economics of the market to include cultural aspects.
Although, there were many cultural normalizers in the past among Palestinian elites, now it became part of a Western project that has used many tools to enforce a normalization of the very abnormal, that of pacifying the public to accept a colonization of their lands, and people, as well as their culture. Since, Oslo this project of normalization has been aided by the NGO industry and cultural centers created and inflated by different Western states in different cities and towns in Palestine that aims at disfiguring the consciousness of the Palestinian society, where people come to get used to the defeat, accept it, and live at peace with their colonization.
This new war against the Palestinian consciousness has also seeped further among elites and intellectuals that have further normalized the ideology of postmodernism, which has come not only to disrupt grand narratives of socialism and Third World nationalism, but also to main a global structure of a Western wealthy center, and a weaker poorer periphery, which is most acute in the Arab world, where the West has much interest in plundering its resources, and which maintains the centrality of the West in the global economic system. This postmodern malaise has helped further weaken Arab and Islamic states to become field lab for new projects of divisions and conflicts. It is also the ideological tool to break up unity among the public and thus the norm becomes "each to his own," an individualism that can only help the West in its domination and aggression. But the war is not over, even if some battles in the past have been won.
Starting with the Iraqi war, and resistance that ensued there, to Afghanistan, where the apparent victory of the Zionist American empire seemed believable to many in the West and also in the Arab world, the bleeding of this racist empire started to take place causing an economic havoc to its resources, and moral one as well. It gave also an impetus to forces in the region and beyond. In Lebanon and in Gaza, the Zionist American power was further weakened. Since then the region has entered a new phase. Now, a new "Middle East," is being made, but one that is different from the one that Zionist American leaders have imagined years ago.
With the Arab revolution starting its first spark in Tunisia, and its spreading into Egypt, a new phase in the war between the tripartite monster (Arab leaders, Israeli settler colonialism, and American imperialism) and the Arab peoples has started.
The signs are already clear regardless of how satisfying the details of the end of each case whether in Tunisia or Egypt. This tripartite structure has been put in a checkmate position in this new battle. Definitely, aggression is a tool that the tripartite monster can use in this new battle, but that won't help either. Now, the Arab spirit has risen and has shaken off decades of fear and lack of resolve. This spirit won't die, but would be further emboldened with every aggressive step taken by the tripartite monster. It is a spirit that is spreading to different parts of the Arab world, the Islamic world, and elsewhere. It is the spirit that brought an end to British and the French Empires, who were brought to their knees in Iraq, Egypt and Algeria decades ago, and it is the spirit that will bring the Zionist American empire to its knees to offer humanity a more hopeful future. But this future can be better only when certain conditions are met.
Going out of the malaise
These conditions as far as Palestine is concerned, according to Adel Samara, must include a new resolve and belief in the Arab grand narrative of Arab nationalist project that aims at lifting the public economically, where people or the public not elites are its center and has more hold on power and resources. It also needs to have a national Palestinian and Arab economic development projects that can make the region and its people not mere markets and cheap labor, but deciders in world economy that is so dependent on the resources in the Arab world, where oil can be used as a weapon in the counter war of people against the war imposed on them by the Zionist American empire with the help of local dictators. It will be an economic force that must be used to cooperate with societies in Asia, Africa, and Latin America and parts of Europe who have been the target of the Zionist American led economic, cultural, and human genocide.
Colonizability and Decolonization
Although Samara's book does not frame these issues in these terms, it has proposed many issues that worth discussing, which I did in the previous part of this essay, but worth discussing them again and expanding the question of a colonized Palestinian Arab society. These issues are the economic and cultural aspect of colonization of the Palestinian society not only by Israel, but by the West at large.
In arguing that Israeli colonization of Palestine would not have started without the support of Western powers, we come to a question what is either often ignored, or dealt with in passing, but without thinking deeply about the dynamics at work in this support, nor the ways we must respond to them.
Calling for boycott of products of western states that support Israel, which includes most countries in western and northern Europe, U.S., Canada, and Australia, is not only essential to register protest against the policies of these states towards Israel (which is a state that must seen as an extension of Western colonialist and imperialist growth) but it is also essential in helping to develop a local indigenous economy. If alternative products cannot be met with local ones, Palestinian society can still consume products from countries that are more supportive of the Palestinian cause, or less harmful to it than these western states, and they are many.
Furthermore, western economic and cultural presence in the Palestinian society must be studied more, and examined in the extent that it comes to further help colonize and pacify Palestinian society, and fragment its unity, and help entrench Israeli control.
Last and least, the role of educational institutions and intellectuals, and other shapers of local culture and identity must be examined as well. The role of such players is not to produce mimicry and help further expand the possibility of colonizability of the Palestinian society.
The role of such players is to central to the theme of liberation, and it must work to create rather than a disfigured Palestinian society controlled by western ideas, thought, taste and practices, a local indigenous identity that has much valued heritage in all these areas and often much richer in its approach to life and humanity. We have much more to learn from so many of other scholars in our history and the Third World that we can learn from, rather than the often taken for granted western scholarship, epistemology, and ideas about thought and action.
This is not to say that we need not be open to useful ideas that come from the West, but before we do that, we need to be competent in the history of our ideas, as well as ideas emanating from regions in the Third World that can offer us useful lessons from experiences of colonization and colonizibility, and thus become much more confident in deciphering ideas from the West that otherwise we would adopt them uncritically as we often do, and thus continue to help the West to remain in the Center of the world system, which we are victims of. Although the room is not enough here in this essay to discuss these issues in details, scholars such as Ibn-Khaldoun, Ibn-Rushd, Al-Farabi and so many others, can offer us great ideas in how to develop a healthy and productive society economically, socially, and politically. And, only with such confidence of our history and ideas and the ideas of other parts of the Third World, we can start to get out of our state of colonizibility. If not, we will continue to shout the right political slogans but at the same time help further colonize ourselves and our society.
*Normalization Is In Your Blood” by Adel Samara, in Arabic, published in Beirut by al-Ab’aad Publishing and in Ramallah- Occupied Palestine by Al-Mashreq Al ‘Amel Center for Development Studies.
كتاب "التطبيع يسري في دمك" لعادل سمارة- دار أبعاد
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