woensdag 21 april 2010

Europe and the collective failure of its pro-Palestinian activists

by Yassine Channouf

April 17th marks Prisoners Day. The date can be held in two ways: just another of the days in which we focus on Palestine in addition to Land and Nakba-Day, ... or to perceive it as a unique occasion in which we highlight the plight of the most vulnerable of Israel's victims; the prisoners. Confined in their cells, surrounded by barbed wire, watchtowers, ditches, spending years away from their families, their voices are rarely heard. And as always, Israel is winning the propaganda war. It clamors for the release of its' lone prisoner G. Shalit, whose picture stands at life size in Rome, at the city hall with the inscription 'Rome wants its citizen Gilad Shalit free'.
The pro-Palestinian movement in Europe has come a long way from the confines of a politically polarized - and thus shallow and diminutive - cold war Europe. For example, the Dutch branch of the International Red Cross, the ideal standard in non-partisan humanitarian work, refused to collect blood for the Arab victims of the June War in 1967, no matter that Israel was the belligerent. At that time there was no pro-Palestine entity, no voice for the refugees to speak of. In fact, barely anyone knew what Palestine stood for. The exceptional actions of the PFLP and its splinter movement PFLP-External Operations, led by Wadi Haddad, changed this. These two organizations attempted to bring the plight of dispersed - or evicted - Palestinians to the world's attention, and succeeded.

Anno 2010, the pro-Palestinian movement has matured, but still lacks the impressive unity and organization of the Zionist lobby. Standing close to the Arab European League, notorious for its' official complaint to Belgium against Ariel Sharon for inciting genocide, I was able to judge the conduct of other so called pro-Palestinian movements. There are sharp rifts on critical issues; support for armed resistance, the how-many-state-solution, the position vis-à-vis the sanctity of the uncountable UN-resolutions. We have seen in the wake of the illegal invasion of Iraq a clear and unequivocal denouncement of this nascent calamity. This unanimity did not last long.

A Palestinian intifada which had become increasingly violent already split the movement in two. Those who were highly critical of the resistance shared many of the features of their leftist predecessors during the colonial era. Jean-Paul Sartre describes these paternalistic elements in his preface to Frantz Fanon's 'The Wretched of the Earth' as :' The Left at home is embarrassed; they know the true situation of the natives, the merciless oppression they are submitted to; they do not condemn their revolt, knowing full well that we have done everything to provoke it. But, all the same, they think to themselves, there are limits; these guerrillas should be bent on showing that they are chivalrous; that would be the best way of showing they are men. Sometimes the Left scolds them ... ‘you’re going too far; we won’t support you any more.’ The natives don’t give a damn about their support; for all the good it does them they might as well stuff it up their backsides. Once their war began, they saw this hard truth: that every single one of us has made his bit, has got something out of them; they don’t need to call anyone to witness; they’ll grant favored treatment to no one.' It seems that the European pro-Palestinian left cannot crawl out of their cocoon which perceives western values as culturally superior, and are adamant on imposing these values on the Palestinians; most importantly non-violence, and the sanctity of negotiations. The second variety of pro-Palestinian movements, which unequivocally supports armed resistance, have been called terrorists themselves, agents de provocateurs of Hezbollah and Hamas. As if these two liberation movements ever exported their armed struggle outside Occupied Palestine and Lebanon. Regardless of the accusations, it is to the latter of pro-Palestinian movements we want to be associated with. One that is not paternalistic about the Palestinian struggle for liberation and nationhood. It is also these factions that are showing their support on the most important occasions; Land Day, Nakba Day and Prisoners day.

During the third day, the most important of them all, our comrades from 'Action Palestine' will hold a demonstration in front of the Israeli embassy in London. In Belgium we, the League of Arab Students, have organized a symbolic manifestation in front of the European Commission. We took the conscious decision of placing the issue of Lebanese prisoner George Ibrahim Abdallah on the forefront. He is the last of the Arab resistance fighters who is imprisoned in France. This Lebanese Marxist revolutionary has been behind bars since 1984. He should have been released in 2003, but this negligence on the part of the French government is all the more poignant when compared to the efforts being made to secure the release of Gilad Shalit, who also carries a French citizenship. Therefore Hamas must include the forgotten George Ibrahim Abdallah in any future deal. It has a unique opportunity to transcend the scope of its resistance outside the geographical entity of Occupied Palestine, or its Islamism. Demanding the release of a Lebanese Marxist revolutionary in France signals an important shift for Hamas, as this could result in an implicit recognition of its movement. It would also be a triumph for the Lebanese people, as they rejoice for the return of one of their citizens. And from our point of view as activists in Europe, it may blur our collective failure as a shattered and divided movement.

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