The Palestinian Intellectual:

His Collusion with the Colonizer

Adel Samara*

A question that requires an answer is: how does the intellectual collude and still become the intellectual leader of the colonized? Perhaps it is because political, social, and class structures have laid the basis for a structural dependency that prevails even in the face of seeming independence. There are three aspects constituting the collusion of the intellectual: the external, the objective, and the subjective. All three are based on and stem from the incongruence of the social formations and their development, formations which are led by their classes.

The External Component: The Universal Dimension

In the Palestinian case, it was the fragility of Arab political formations that invited colonialism, a dynamic that continues to the present day. On the one hand, colonialism has caused the fragmentation and reduction of Palestine, which coupled with the continuity of Arab weakness, has given birth—in the mind of the intellectual—to a plethora of obstructions. Additionally, the Palestinian colonial situation is unique: it did not result in a comprehensive genocide (as was the case in the United States and Canada), or in the total subjugation of a majority by a minority (as in South Africa), but created the Palestinian refugee problem and the continuous disintegration of Palestinian land and society. In other words, Palestinian life and land were fragmented without any attempt at integration into the colonial society. Other factors that help explain the condition of Palestine include its negative interaction with the Arab world, which has failed to liberate it; the intensification of globalization; and the failure of the world communist revolution. All of these external factors have had varying impact on in the situation of Palestine both before and after the emergence of the Palestinian problem with the Nakba.

The Objective Component

A factor has emerged as the result of structural dependency brought about by class structure and the power of the elites, beginning with the sheikhs during the Ottoman rule, the effendis during British colonialism, and finally the compradors that were dispersed (and many displaced) on the basis of sharing the fragments of Palestine (Jordan, The Israeli entity, and Egypt). The consequence of fragmenting Palestine was the loss of a production base—one that enables society’s reproduction on the material, economic, and biological levels. Then, we have the impact or role of the external actor, itself a cause of expulsion and displacement, which deepens the economic dependency of Palestine by introducing foreign donors as a source of livelihood (for instance, UNRWA).

Such “development” fails to contribute to the reconstruction of Palestinian class structure and thus obliterating any attempt or opportunity for the reconstruction of a national project lead by a united political movement. This fact is evidenced by the multiplicity of Palestinian political movements that have perennially failed to form a national front—a factor that helped maintain the PLO as a replica of the Arab League. Moreover, if it is true that every intellectual naturally represents his class, we could better understand the collusion of the intellectual in a society whose class structure is fragmented, lacks a production base, and draws its livelihood by extracting funds from channels which have multiple sources and multiple political agendas. The absence of a structure of production compels the economy to rely on rent, which in turn leads the intellectual—as a provider of an exchange value—to a situation where he will sell collusion to the colonizer for an income. The collusion of the intellectual has come as a result of decades of his upbringing under a set the rules aimed at insuring his collusion.

The Subjective Component

The dialectic relationship between the two components, which we can consider as the external factors and the objective upbringing, injects the discourse of the colonizer into the consciousness of the intellectual before he has a chance to control it. Such an injection is like a disease which is sometimes dormant and at other times active. The only person who can eradicate it is the critical and engaged intellectual.

The rentier dependent reality, with its impotent political and social horizon, also assists in supporting the discourse of the colonizing power, and creates a siege for the intellectual. This is especially the case if the intellectual relies on reading and analyzing political reality on a short-term daily basis, rather than from a historical perspective. Here he is surely bound to fail—his life becomes transformed into a series of interruptions, devoid of history, and thereby exacerbates the Arab defeat, allowing it to prevail in one’s consciousness, normalizing collusion with colonialism.

While defeat enters into the consciousness of the intellectual, it is not necessarily fated. But what gives defeat its size, impact, and extent is the fragility of the objective bearers of criticism and resistance. The intellectual thereby experiences his individual circumstances and tendencies as normal—he regards his role as looking for personal security and nothing else. Accordingly, he will sell his consciousness and education in an attempt to safeguard his livelihood. This is expected and normal due to the absence of national power: the power to control, the power to challenge by discourse, and the power of national accountability. In addition, colonialism as a material and discursive power drives the intellectual to a situation of subordination, whereby the further and deeper he goes, the more “normal” his situation will seem to him.

The problem is neither limited here to the role of the political elite purchasing the intellectual elite—the whole of Palestinian society relies on rentier economy, the rentier of exchanging culture with money, nor is it limited to the role played by the political elite in deepening the general sense of defeat by normalizing the colonization. Rather, this situation has emerged as a result of society’s deepening reliance on rentier economy, which in turn led to the creation of a rentier culture and a discursive rentier. NGOs exert power and become subjects within this culture, creating a situation of hysteria that obstructs consciousness-awakening and buttresses this process, allowing defeat to enter and prevail; they simultaneously consider any criticism an exhibition of madness. The end result is the death of politics—even if seemingly temporarily—and consequently the death of resistance.

Given this context, can we explain the silence of the Palestinian people when Mahmoud Abbas announced that we do not have a historical but a national right in Palestine? And if we consider the fact that the majority of Palestinians are in the West Bank and Gaza (before and after Oslo), we can anticipate his position’s effect on the intellectuals in their various political arenas. Has not a shift taken place in considering Palestinian membership in the Knesset from one of contributing to reproduce the colonial power structure to one of individual choice? For decades, have not Palestinian intellectuals from the exile paved the way for justifying sharing Palestine with the enemy by marketing Palestinian political candidates for the Knesset, supporting and condoning a masochistic dependent relationship between the PLO and the White House, and participating in dialogue sessions with Jewish intellectuals, which were not different from the Oslo negotiations? Meetings began at Columbia University and continued in Oslo and Copenhagen—negotiations from which the intellectual settled on a collusion that negates life and resistance. They replaced the political party with the NGO and the homeland with a place. Would not all of this explain how the acceptance of rent as a substitute for production is a key factor in collusion?

Collusion of the intellectual has resulted from the collusion of material reality (production sectors) with rent, the political leadership with the colonizer (in their various forms), the leadership of the PLO with the core of the Israeli entity, and intellectual consciousness with Europe’s discourse and its condescending, hidden, and malignant features. These overlapping collusions—which tend to feed each other—emerge as a result of a debased environment that allowed colonial control hegemony; the hegemony reproduces itself, particularly in an environment without consequence.

For the Palestinian people to overcome this situation, an intellectual must emerge—one who is prepared to challenge the chains of hegemony and domination by developing an internationally resonant political discourse that resists globalization/the market, supports nationalists rather than regionalists, and aligns with patriotism rather than class treachery. We need an intellectual who would challenge the orthodox political parties with a party of the popular classes. We need an intellectual who would challenge or reject individualism by going back to the mata-narratives and discredit all varieties of post-modernity, post-structuralism, and so forth, by directly relating to reality. He would abandon individualism, align himself with his class, reject virility through the feminization of liberation and class, refuse to seek political recognition, and object to the claims of Zionists by asserting the reality of the objective presence of the Palestinians. He would insist that life is resistance, rather than considering Palestinian resistance as simply a reaction to the Zionist conquest of Palestine.

*Dr. Adel Samara is an Arab Nationalist Marxist thinker. He is the editor-in-chief of Kana’an Review.

Source: Jadal 1 Mada al-Carmel Jadal Issue no.12, February 2012