When Culture Ignores People’s Memory

It is a Betrayal

A comment on Deborah Moggach article that appeared in The Guardian (see below) appreciating Arab intellectuals normalizing with Zionist Regime.

By Adel Samara

It is about time that we recognize that the greatest threat for the Palestinian Right of Return (ROR), is Palestinian and Arab liberal, bourgeois, comprador and patriarchal politicians and intellectuals.

While we appreciate international solidarity with our cause, a solidarity that we consider a human duty like our solidarity with the Afghani, Tamil, Cuban, Vietnamese struggles, it is our duty to inform those who support our struggle that the aim of our struggle is the liberation of our occupied land in 1948 and 1967 by the Zionist Ashkenazi Regime (ZAR).

In light of this fact, Arab and Palestinian intellectuals who call for or support normalization with the Zionist entity do not represent the struggle of our people, it goals and aspirations. In this context, Edward Said did not represent the struggle of our people as he called for normalization with the enemy. The same goes for Ahraf Soueif, and all Arab intellectuals who normalize with the ZAR by means of visiting the 1967-Occupied Palestinian Territories (OTs). They are aiming, through their normalization efforts, to be accepted by the western capitalist Eurocentric intellectual circles. These circles are orientalist in the sense that they want us to re-write our history, re-shape our geography and collective memory to accept the lie that occupied Palestine 1948 became, by a strike of magic, Israel. Thus, in this sense these circles are zionized.

The normalization of Arab, intellectuals and politicians is taking place with the three main enemies against our people and against humanity:

· The Ashkenazi Regime

· Arab comprador regimes including the Palestinian self-rule in the West Bank and Gaza Strip (WBG).

· The ruling classes in core capitalist counties

My focus point here is that Arab intellectuals, by visiting the occupied Palestinian territories, are betraying the cause of struggle against the Zionist settler-colonial occupation.

We send this message to these Arab intellectuals, telling them that the true solidarity with us has to be translated into action: i.e. to fight in their own countries against the rulers of Arab Homeland. Considering the nature of Arab regimes, Arab Homeland is, therefore, under an occupation by its rulers, who are repressing their peoples, exploiting them, and blocking our development for the benefit of the imperialist center and its interests. Accordingly, they have nothing to offer us. It may seem ironic, thought, that we, in Occupied Palestine, want to express solidarity with Arab people who are ‘occupied’ by Arab comprador regimes because we clearly recognize our enemy. That is what I once told Arab Intellectuals in one of my books.[1] It would be really strange if some Arab intellectuals come to the OTs to taste repression, as if they did not taste it already in their own countries!

The role and duty of Arab intellectuals is to explain to intellectuals in other societies and countries the core cause of the Arab-Zionist conflict which is the occupation of Palestine in 1948 and the eviction of its people. Their duty is to tell other intellectuals that Arabs shouldn’t recognize the Zionist settler-colonial occupation and that is also why they, the Arabs, shouldn’t normalize with that regime. This must be a step in persuading revolutionary intellectuals not to normalize with the Zionist regime.

We must encourage international intellectuals to visit occupied Palestine, and we must tell them that we are fighting for a cause and that we shouldn’t ‘donate’ to the settler colonialists any form or level of recognition of their historic crime against our people, Arab nation and the entire humanity.

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On 6 June 2009 and under the title “The week in books” “The power of culture in Palestine”, Deborah Moggach wrote the following comment in The Guardian.

I’m still recovering from a tumultuous week in Palestine where, between 23 and 28 May, 16 writers from around the world took part in the Palestine Festival of Literature (Palfest). It was started last year by Ahdaf Soueif as a way of bringing poets, journalists, publishers and novelists to the occupied territories to celebrate, in Edward Said’s words, “the power of culture over the culture of power”. There’s nothing else quite like it: due to the restrictions on movement, it is we, the visitors, who bring the mountain to Muhammad, travelling around in a bus visiting towns in the West Bank to do readings with Palestinian writers, stage music and poetry events, conduct workshops with students and visit refugee camps. This year’s group included Michael Palin, Henning Mankell, Claire Messud, Jamal Mahjoub, Abdulrazak Gurnah and the dazzling poet/performer Suheir Hammad.

We travelled in from Jordan. After being held for five hours at the checkpoint we arrived in East Jerusalem for our first event, at the Palestinian National Theatre. The audience was just sitting down when armed police barged in and ordered us all out. Despite our protests that we were hardly a dangerous bunch (“Oh I don’t know,” whispered Palin, “far too many people in the audience were crossing their legs”) we found ourselves out on the street, where the French came to our rescue and offered us an alternative venue. So we picked up the plates of food and walked through the streets to the French Cultural Centre garden, where we started the whole thing all over again, with eight police cars parked in the street outside.

So began our Kafkaesque journey into the West Bank, a journey punctuated by checkpoints where teenage soldiers smoked in our faces and disembodied voices ordered us through holding pens like cattle in an abattoir. The high, hideous concrete barrier slices through communities, cutting off farmers from their land and children from their schools; its graffiti includes paintings of trees and “Can I have my ball back?”

We were astonished by the courage and humour of those we met. “We don’t have the luxury of despair,” one man told me. The wonderful Raja Shehadeh, whose book Palestinian Walks is an elegy to a lost landscape, took us for a walk through the Ramallah hills, now designated “Zone C”, which meant we could all be arrested. In this beautiful biblical landscape, filled with wild flowers, there was a surreal moment when Palin told me about being crucified in The Life of Brian and how they all had little bicycle seats to sit on, when on the cross.

Our last visit was to Hebron, an ancient and beautiful town where Jewish settlers have moved into the centre, taking over the upper floors of the buildings above the bazaar, which over the past few years has been throttled by intimidation and lack of access. Outside the mosque only two Palestinian shops remain. In one, the old man burst into tears when talking to us. “I shall never leave,” he said, while the settler centre opposite blared out Zionist songs, drowning out the call to prayer from the mosque. The only people who can walk freely are the settlers, who have four security guards to every person and who stroll around with large dogs. When we returned to East Jerusalem for our final event we found the theatre closed again.

[1] This debate stimulated me to write my debatable and polemic book “Intellectuals in the Service of the Other” in 2003.