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爱德华·萨义德:若雪·柯利的意义:尊严与团结

译者佚名,欢迎提供;英文来自www.counterpounch.org
我将以一个反讽做为结尾。许多迹象显示,世上越来越多的人跟我们团结在一起,而我们却反而没有展现出相称的自我团结与尊严,甚至别人恐怕都比我们自己都还要更景仰并看重我们的文化,这听起来很荒谬不是吗?
标题

(二零零三年)五月初我在西雅图演讲,在那里我会见了若雪‧柯利(Rachel Corrie)的父母和姐姐。他们尚未从若雪的死亡中恢复平静;若雪于3月16日在加沙被以色列推土机碾压致死。若雪的父亲告诉我,他自己曾驾驶过推土机,然而这辆刻意杀害他女儿的推土机却是一辆重达60吨的巨兽,由Caterpillar公司特别设计用来摧毁房屋的机型,远远大过任何他所看过或驾驶过的推土机。

若雪之所以被杀害,是因为她当时正在拉法试图保护一栋巴勒斯坦平民的房屋不被铲平。在我短暂拜访若雪的家人后,有两件事深深烙印在我心头。一是若雪的家人告诉我有关他们将若雪的遗体带回美国后的事。他们回到美国后,随即寻求该州参议员的协助,这两位分别是Patty Murray和Mary Cantwell,均为民主党籍。若雪的家人将事件发生经过告知参议员,如所预料,她们表达了震惊和气愤,而且也允诺对此事进行调查。

然而,这两位议员返回华府后,若雪的家人却再也没有接到任何消息,之前所答应的调查行动也从未付诸实现。不令人意外,以色列强大的游说力量告诉了她们什么才是现实,这两位议员也因此借故推托。一位美国公民被美国的忠实伙伴兼附庸国的士兵蓄意地谋杀,官方不仅不屑一顾,连原先答应若雪家人应有的基本调查都没有。

不过,对我来说,若雪的故事真正打动我的是她的行为--勇敢又有尊严。若雪出生、成长于位在西雅图南端六十英哩处的小城-奥林匹亚(Olympia)。她加入国际团结运动(International Solidarity Movement,简称ISM),并前往加沙帮助那些她未曾谋面的受苦民众。她写给家人的信,让我们见证了她平凡的人性,使人读了既不忍又感动。尤其是她描述了她所遇到的巴勒斯坦人是如何地关心她,把她当成他们的一份子;她和他们一起生活,一起分享生命中的欢乐与忧愁。

此外,她也描述了以色列占领下的恐怖,即使是年纪最小的小孩也深受影响。她同时体认到这群难民的命运,因为她认为以色列政府所作所为的最终意图是将这群人逼到绝境,以消灭整个种族。令人感动的是,她的作为鼓舞了一位拒绝服兵役的以色列后备役军人丹尼,他写信告诉她说:"你做了一件好事,我很感激你所做的一切。"

若雪的家书在她死后不久被刊登在英国卫报(Guardian),而闪耀贯穿这些信的内容则是巴勒斯坦人英勇的反抗行为;一群平凡人陷落在如此恐怖的处境中,忍受着痛苦和绝望,却仍然努力求生存。

我们近来听到无数有关中东和平路线图及和平计划的消息,但我们却忽视了一项最基本的事实,那就是:即使美国和以色列联手集体惩罚巴勒斯坦人,他们仍拒绝屈服或投降。也正因为这令人感到鼓舞的事实,也才有今天的中东和平路线图和其他无数的和平计划。这绝不是因为美国、以色列和国际社会基于人道因素,终于体认到杀戮和暴力必须被扼止。

尽管巴勒斯坦人的抵抗或有其缺点及失败处,但我们若拒绝正视这抵抗的力量(我不是指自杀炸弹攻击,这只是有害无益),我们将会错失一切。对犹太复国运动来说,巴勒斯坦人永远是个问题,而他们犹太人所谓的解决方法,只是想淡化问题,而不是解决问题。以色列的官方政策--不管沙龙使不使用"占领"这个字眼或者他是否摧毁了一两座生锈无用的塔--都一再表明他们否认巴勒斯坦人存在的事实,更不愿承认巴勒斯坦人的权利一再被以色列侵犯践踏。这些年来,尽管有少数勇敢的以色列人试图面对这段被隐瞒的历史,然而大部分的以色列人和美国犹太人只想努力地否认并忽视巴勒斯坦人的现况,这也是为什么和平会遥遥无期。

再者,路线图里完全没有顾及到正义或者数十年来历史加诸于巴勒斯坦人的惩罚。然而,若雪在加沙所做的奉献正是告诉我们,巴勒斯坦人应被视为一个具有严肃且丰富之人民生活史的国家团体,而不只是一群贫困的难民而已。这也是若雪为何选择和他们一起奋斗的原因。我们更应谨记,类似若雪的团结行为已不再局限于某时某地一小群勇敢的灵魂,它已被世界上许多人所认同。在过去的六个月来,我在四大洲进行演讲,数以千计的听众之所以聚集在一起,正是因为他们关心巴勒斯坦,而巴勒斯坦人民的挣扎奋斗历程已经是解放和启蒙的代名词,不管他们的敌人如何处心积虑地毁谤他们。

一旦我们体认到这些事实,世人即会认同并团结声援巴勒斯坦人的正义和抗争。例如,今年几场世界政治光谱中占标竿地位的会议,如巴西榆港市(Porto Alegre)的反全球化会议,瑞士达沃斯(Davos)和约旦安曼的会议中,巴勒斯坦都是会议讨论主题。

在美国,我们的民众被媒体喂食充满恶劣偏见、无知且错误的资讯。媒体总是将自杀攻击的恐怖描绘得淋漓尽致,却从未提及以色列占领巴勒斯坦的暴行,而以色列正在建造的25尺高、5尺厚、350公里长的"种族隔离墙"却从未出现在CNN或其他电视网的新闻画面中(或者只有在提到那苍白贫乏的中东和平路线图时才随口提及)。

战犯罪行,毫无来由的破坏和羞辱,以及种种暴行所导致的身体伤残,房屋被毁,农作物遭破坏,甚至人命的伤亡等等,这些巴勒斯坦平民所必须承受、日复一日的磨难,媒体却完全没有呈现在世人面前。这也难怪大部分的美国人都看不起阿拉伯人和巴勒斯坦人。毕竟所有的主流媒体,从左派自由份子到极端右派人士都毫无异议地反阿拉伯、反回教徒、反巴勒斯坦人。我们只要看看在酝酿攻打伊拉克这场非法且不公义的战争期间媒体怯懦的表现,就可略知一二。几乎也没有媒体报导联合国禁运措施对伊拉克社会所造成的巨大伤害。

另外,世界各国风起云涌的反战浪潮,媒体也鲜少报导。唯一的例外可能是记者海伦‧汤玛斯(Helen Thomas)在开战前曾质疑"伊拉克会对美国造成急迫军事威胁"这个粗暴的谎言和"精心调配"的"事实"。同样地,这批捏造和操纵有关大规模毁灭武器"事实"的政府文宣打手,在媒体热烈讨论事实上乃由美国一手造成的伊拉克人民惨况时,这批文宣打手的罪行,却被媒体所刻意脱罪或甚至从不置一词。侯赛因的确是个残暴的统治者,然而他在位时,伊拉克人民却得以享受到水源、电力、卫生保健、教育等阿拉伯国家中最好的基础设施,如今这些都已不复存在。

在政治宣传专家和东方学家如柏纳‧路易斯(Bernard Lewis)和丹尼尔‧派普斯(Daniel Pipes)等人的误导下,媒体和政府普遍对阿拉伯整体社会、文化、历史和心理状况怀着敌意,也使得我们害怕一旦批评以色列对无辜巴勒斯坦平民不曾间断的战犯罪行,就是"反犹太人",或是如果批评美国政府的非法战争和残酷的军事占领,就是"反美"。这些状况也使得我们被迫灌输"阿拉伯人是一群未开化、无能且注定要失败的民族"的观念,让我们误以为阿拉伯在民主制度和社会发展上均没有明显建树,所以世上唯独她是落后、迟缓、缺乏现代化且极端守旧。因此,这是我们必须抱持尊严,积极从事批判性的历史思考、发掘事实、并厘清宣传辞令与真相的时刻了。

没有人会否认,现今大多数阿拉伯国家仍由许多没有民意支持的政权所把持。许多穷困弱势的阿拉伯青年在宗教上,也只有机会接触残酷的基本教义派。然而,在这同时,阿拉伯社会并不是如纽约时报所经常撒谎的,说她完全受控制、没有言论自由、没有公民机构、没有属于人民的社会运动。尽管有些出版品受到管制,今天你仍可以在安曼市中心买到共产党发行的报纸或伊斯兰教的报纸;埃及和黎巴嫩也远超乎我们的评价,有着各式各样的书报杂志,满载着正反意见的各种讨论;卫星频道也充斥各种令人眼花缭乱的节目;社会服务、人权、企业团体、学术研究等相关公民机构,在阿拉伯世界同样十分活跃。虽然在朝往民主的路上,我们还有许多重要的事必须完成,但我们正朝这个方向前进。

单单在巴勒斯坦就有超过一千个非政府组织,而正是这样的生命力和活动力,维持了社会的运作和前进--尽管美国和以色列不曾间断地毁谤、破坏这些成就。即使在最艰困的环境下,巴勒斯坦社会也从未被击败或崩解。孩子们正常上下学,医生和护士照顾病患,男男女女坚守自己的工作岗位,组织机构照常举行会议,人们继续过日子。

这些事实,无疑是对沙龙和其他一心只想监禁或驱离巴勒斯坦人的极端份子打了一个耳光。军事行动起不了作用,现在不会,以后也不会。以色列人要看清这些事实真的有那么难吗?我们必须在巴勒斯坦以及世界各角落,不是藉由自杀攻击,而是借着理性辩论、大规模的民事不服从运动、有组织的示威抗议,来帮助他们了解这一切。

我想要说的重点是,我们必须用比较性的眼光和批判性的角度来看待整个阿拉伯世界,特别是巴勒斯坦问题。而不是像那些肤浅和带着鄙夷的作品,如路易斯的"哪里出了错"(What Went Wrong)(译注:中译本由商周出版)和保罗‧沃尔福威茨(Paul Wolfowitz)无知的声明那样,建议将民主带到阿拉伯和伊斯兰世界。

不管阿拉伯是个怎样的世界,这个充满着真实人民的真实社会,活泼地交流着各种正反意见,绝对无法被化约丑化为单一的、充满暴力的基本教义派。巴勒斯坦人在争取正义所做的奋斗上,展现了团结的力量,而不仅仅是无止尽的苛责、恼怒、沮丧和失望,或甚至是有害的分歧。记住,我们不只是在这里,也在拉丁美洲、非洲、欧洲、亚洲和澳洲展现了团结的力量。尽管我们面临诸多困难及可怕的障碍,但许多人决志坚持下去。为什么?因为这是一个公义的目标,是个高贵的理念,也是对平等和人权的道德追寻。

我也想谈谈"尊严"这个主题。"尊严",不管是在历史学家、人类学家、社会学家或是人文学者眼中,或是在每个文化中,都有着特殊地位。我首先要说的是,以为阿拉伯人没有个别性,以为他们不重视个体生命,以为他们没有任何价值能够传达"爱"、"亲密情感"、"理解"等等这些据说只有历经过文艺复兴、宗教改革和启蒙运动的欧美文化才独有的资产,那是根本错误的东方主义,也是一种种族歧视。鄙俗浅薄的托马斯•弗里德曼(Thomas Friedman)和其他许多人炒作了一大堆这类废话,然后一些同样无知与自欺欺人的阿拉伯知识份子也跟着大加阐扬。我也就不必在这里指名道姓说究竟是哪些人了,他们说从911事件就可以看出阿拉伯和伊斯兰世界比其他文化更病态、更失调,或甚至说恐怖主义是一种象征,象征伊斯兰世界比诸其它世界更严重的一种扭曲。

我们不妨先来看看这样的一个事实,单单欧洲与美国就制造了二十世纪最多的暴力伤亡,而伊斯兰世界所制造的,与之相较,根本微不足道。今日我们所熟悉的这些似是而非的所谓"正确文明"与"错误文明"的假科学假知识,主要是受到萨缪尔‧亨廷顿(Samuel Huntington)这位伟大假先知的荒唐影响。他让许多人相信,世界是由相互交战不息的不同文明所组成。事实上,亨廷顿没有一点是对的。没有任何文明或文化是独立存在的;没有任何文明独独有着别人所没有的个别性与启蒙思想;没有任何文明可以存在但却不具有基本的人类特质如社区、爱、对生命或是对他人的尊重。

但是,亨廷顿似乎不这么认为。这好比说非洲人天生智能低劣,或是说亚洲人生来就是奴役性格,或是说欧洲人是较优秀的种族一样,都是最纯粹最可恶的种族歧视。这等于是将鼓吹"亚利安种族优秀论"的希特勒式科学,如法炮制在今日阿拉伯人与伊斯兰徒身上。我们必须坚持不要跟这类荒谬的胡说八道多费唇舌。

另一方面,我们也必须严肃地提出更可信的说法,那就是,跟所有人类一样,阿拉伯和伊斯兰生活都具有透过她们独特的文化形式所表达出来的内在价值与尊严,这个表达方式,不需要模仿任何既定的文化模式,也不需要遵循任何一种宣称所有人都必须遵循的模式。

人类的多元性,说到最后,就是不同风格之个体与经验间的深度共存。但是,那些感伤阿拉伯世界缺乏发展与知识的学者专家却吃人豆腐地说文明只有单一一种优越形式。我们只需要看看由摩洛哥到波斯湾之间由阿拉伯人所创造或激发出来的繁复多样的文学、电影、戏剧、绘画、音乐和大众文化就够了。我们应该拿这些东西做为阿拉伯人发展的一项指标,而不是只看了某个时刻工业生产的统计图表,就要断言阿拉伯世界是否有达到某种程度的发展。

但我得强调另一个重点,我们的文化与社会和统治阶层间,有着非常大的差距。在历史上,很少有像今天的许多阿拉伯国家那样,偌大权力如此集中在一小群君王将相或是总统手中。而且,几乎毫无例外也是最糟糕的地方就是,他们都无法代表人民的最佳利益。这不单单只是所谓民主的问题,更是因为他们似乎彻底地低估了他们自己与人民。他们用尽各种方式拒人民于千里之外的结果,使得自己不敢改变也不准改变;不但害怕把社会开放给人民,更害怕得罪他们的老大哥--美国。这些统治者不把公民视为国家潜在的资产,却把他们视为觊觎统治者权力的阴谋者。

为什么在攻打伊拉克的这场恐怖战争中,没有任何一个阿拉伯国家能有自尊、自信地对伊拉克所受的掠夺与军事占领挺身说些像样的话呢?这才是个真正的失败。好吧,侯赛因的恐怖政权既然已经不在了,这是件好事,但又是谁指派了美国来当阿拉伯的军师呢?是谁邀请美国来接管阿拉伯世界,并宣称代表她的公民,带来所谓"民主"?尤其当今美国自身的教育体系、医疗体系以及整个经济,都已经恶化到1929年经济大萧条以来的最低水平了,为什么阿拉伯国家没有同声抗议美国之非法干涉内政,给整个阿拉伯世界带来巨大伤害与屈辱?这是一种胆识、尊严和自我团结上的彻底失败。

布什政权开口闭口宣称受万能之神的领导,难道没有一位阿拉伯领导人有勇气说出,做为一个伟大的人种,我们有自己的荣光、传统和宗教?没有,一个字也没有。当可怜的伊拉克人民忍受着恐怖的煎熬,邻近地区也连带遭受打击时,每个人都吓呆了,只怕下一个遭殃的会是自己的国家。

很不幸地,就在上星期,阿拉伯主要国家的领导人联合拥抱了布什这个无故发动战争摧毁一个阿拉伯国家的人。难道没有人有一点胆量提醒这个乔治•W,说他给阿拉伯人民带来了前所未有的屈辱和苦难,为什么反而对他颔首、微笑、拥抱和亲吻?

我们应该提供给西岸与加沙地区的反占领运动的外交上、政治上和经济上的支持在哪里呢?一点都没有。不但没有,我们只听到各个阿拉伯外交部长对着巴勒斯坦人说教,叫他们要谨慎,要避免暴力,要遵守和谈协议等等--尽管沙龙对和平的兴趣几乎等于零。我们没见到阿拉伯国家口径一致地抗议以色列的隔离墙和暗杀行动,或是抗议以色列对巴勒斯坦人的集体惩罚,耳边总是充斥着这些经由美国国务院核准的陈腔滥调。

巴勒斯坦自治政府最近的言行,让我惊觉到阿拉伯人无法体认巴勒斯坦目标之尊严性的程度,简直到了最低点。阿布‧马赞(Abu Mazen,亦即Mahmoud Abbas,马哈茂德‧阿巴斯)这位几乎没有人民政治支持的次要人物之所以被阿拉法特、以色列和美国选派来担任和谈工作,正是因为他没有选民支持,不是个演说家,不是个伟大的组织者;或者可以说,他除了是个听命阿拉法特的侍从外,什么也不是。我甚至担心他们批准他是因为他是会听以色列施令的人,否则,阿巴斯怎么会如说腹语者的木偶般,站在阿卡巴(Aqaba)宣读着由美国国务院官员为他所准备的讲稿呢?

这个演讲虽然值得称许地谈到犹太人的苦难,但却惊人地几乎完全没有提到以色列所制造的苦难。他怎么能接受这样一个没有尊严、完全被操弄的角色?他怎么可以在美国和以色列的摆布下,忘记了他的人民--一个超过一世纪以来英勇地为自己权利而战的人民?特别是,以色列方面也只说将来会有一个"临时性"的巴勒斯坦国,却完全没有提到她所铸下的巨大伤害、战犯行径以及对巴勒斯坦男男女女和小孩所施加的全面性虐待和屈辱,对此没有任何悔恨或抱歉。我必须坦白说,我真的完全无法理解为什么会这样。做为一个长久以来承受苦难的人民之代表人或领导人,却全然只字未提这些事,他是否已经完全丧失了自尊?

他是否忘记了他不只是一个个人,在这特别重要的一刻,他更是他的人民命运的承担者?在这应该迎向机会、昂首站立于世人面前、毫无妥协与含糊地展现人民的经验与尊严的时刻,他却表现出巴勒斯坦领导人向来对冒牌白人父亲恳求一些小恩小惠时所惯有的一种半尴尬、半赔罪的卑微气度。有人能对这彻底的失败不感到悲痛失望吗?

但是,这是巴勒斯坦统治者自奥斯陆协议与哈吉•阿明(Haj Amin)以来惯有的对外态度--表错情地揉和了未成年人的反叛和哀怨的乞求。到底是为什么,他们总是以为恭读敌人为他们所准备的讲稿是绝对必要的?做为巴勒斯坦、阿拉伯世界以及美国的阿拉伯人的最基本的生命尊严,就是在于我们不但拥有文化遗产、历史与传统,更有着足以表达我们真实愿望的语言。我们的愿望产生于每一个巴勒斯坦人民自1948年以来即被迫承担的驱逐和掠夺的苦难经验中。我们没有一个政治发言人--阿拉伯世界自阿布德‧纳塞尔(Abdel Nasser,前埃及总统)以来亦如此--曾经有自尊、有尊严地说出我们是什么,我们要什么,我们做了什么,以及我们想到哪里去。

然而,慢慢地,情势在转变,由阿巴斯和阿布‧阿马斯(Abu Ammars)这类人所组成的旧政权,将会消逝,逐渐将被阿拉伯世界的新一组领导人所取代。现今最让人怀着一些希望的就是"国家巴勒斯坦计划"(National Palestinian Initiative)的成员。他们是一些草根运动者;他们主要的活动不是纸上谈兵,不是在银行帐户上耍把戏,不是吸引记者的注意力;他们来自专业阶级与工人阶级,当中有年轻的知识份子、运动者、老师、医生、律师、工人等等这些一方面每天抵挡以色列攻击、一方面也维持社会运作的一群人。

其次,这些人致力于一种政府当局所不曾想见的民主与民众参与-当局对于民主的想法向来只是确保自身的稳定与安全。这些草根运动人士,甚至给失业者提供社会服务,给没有社会保险的人或穷人提供医疗服务,给下一代巴勒斯坦小孩提供适当的世俗教育,让他们明白现代世界的现实,而不仅仅是昔日美好的文化资产。

为了要施行这些计划,"国家巴勒斯坦计划"明言,只有结束占领才是唯一的路径,而要这么做,就必须自由选举出新的国家领导阶层,取代过去一个世纪以来腐败、过时、缺乏效能的领导人。

只有当我们能够尊重自己是一个阿拉伯人或美国人时,才能理解奋斗的真正尊严与正义所在。也只有如此,我们才能体会,为什么不管我们怎么看待自己,世界上仍然会有这么多人,包括若雪‧柯利还有两位与她同样受难的"国际团结运动组织"的成员--汤姆‧亨道尔(Tom Hurndall)和布莱恩‧艾弗利(Brian Avery),愿意跟我们团结在一起。

最后,我将以一个反讽做为结尾。许多迹象显示,世上越来越多的人跟我们团结在一起,而我们却反而没有展现出相称的自我团结与尊严,甚至别人恐怕都比我们自己都还要更景仰并看重我们的文化,这听起来很荒谬不是吗?这难道不是我们该认清自身处境、并展现尊严的一刻?我们所能做的第一步就是,让政府代表明白:我们不需感到任何惭愧,因为我们正为着一个正当且高贵的目标而努力;他们应该为人民所做的奋斗感到骄傲,并且以能代表他们为荣。

JUNE 23, 2003 www.counterpounch.org

The Meaning of Rachel Corrie

Of Dignity and Solidarity

by EDWARD SAID

 

In early May, I was in Seattle lecturing for a few days. While there, I had dinner one night with Rachel Corrie's parents and sister, who were still reeling from the shock of their daughter's murder on March 16 in Gaza by an Israeli bulldozer. Mr. Corrie told me that he had himself driven bulldozers, although the one that killed his daughter deliberately because she was trying valiantly to protect a Palestinian home in Rafah from demolition was a 60 ton behemoth especially designed by Caterpillar for house demolitions, a far bigger machine than anything he had ever seen or driven. Two things struck me about my brief visit with the Corries. One was the story they told about their return to the US with their daughter's body. They had immediately sought out their US Senators, Patty Murray and Mary Cantwell, both Democrats, told them their story and received the expected expressions of shock, outrage, anger and promises of investigations. After both women returned to Washington, the Corries never heard from them again, and the promised investigation simply didn't materialize. As expected, the Israeli lobby had explained the realities to them, and both women simply begged off. An American citizen willfully murdered by the soldiers of a client state of the US without so much as an official peep or even the de rigeur investigation that had been promised her family.

But the second and far more important aspect of the Rachel Corrie story for me was the young woman's action itself, heroic and dignified at the same time. Born and brought up in Olympia, a small city 60 miles south of Seattle, she had joined the International Solidarity Movement and gone to Gaza to stand with suffering human beings with whom she had never had any contact before. Her letters back to her family are truly remarkable documents of her ordinary humanity that make for very difficult and moving reading, especially when she describes the kindness and concern showed her by all the Palestinians she encounters who clearly welcome her as one of their own, because she lives with them exactly as they do, sharing their lives and worries, as well as the horrors of the Israeli occupation and its terrible effects on even the smallest child. She understands the fate of refugees, and what she calls the Israeli government's insidious attempt at a kind of genocide by making it almost impossible for this particular group of people to survive. So moving is her solidarity that it inspires an Israeli reservist named Danny who has refused service to write her and tell her, " You are doing a good thing. I thank you for it."

What shines through all the letters she wrote home and which were subsequently published in the London Guardian, is the amazing resistance put up by the Palestinian people themselves, average human beings stuck in the most terrible position of suffering and despair but continuing to survive just the same. We have heard so much recently about the roadmap and the prospects for peace that we have overlooked the most basic fact of all, which is that Palestinians have refused to capitulate or surrender even under the collective punishment meted out to them by the combined might of the US and Israel. It is that extraordinary fact which is the reason for the existence of a roadmap and all the numerous so-called peace plans before them, not at all because the US and Israel and the international community have been convinced for humanitarian reasons that the killing and the violence must stop. If we miss that truth about the power of Palestinian resistance (by which I do not at all mean suicide bombing, which does much more harm than good), despite all its failings and all its mistakes, we miss everything. Palestinians have always been a problem for the Zionist project, and so-called solutions have perennially been proposed that minimize, rather than solve, the problem. The official Israeli policy, no matter whether Ariel Sharon uses the word "occupation" or not or whether or not he dismantles a rusty, unused tower or two, has always been not to accept the reality of the Palestinian people as equals nor ever to admit that their rights were scandalously violated all along by Israel. Whereas a few courageous Israelis over the years have tried to deal with this other concealed history, most Israelis and what seems like the majority of American Jews have made every effort to deny, avoid, or negate the Palestinian reality. This is why there is no peace.

Moreover, the roadmap says nothing about justice or about the historical punishment meted out to the Palestinian people for too many decades to count. What Rachel Corrie's work in Gaza recognized, however, was precisely the gravity and the density of the living history of the Palestinian people as a national community, and not merely as a collection of deprived refugees. That is what she was in solidarity with. And we need to remember that that kind of solidarity is no longer confined to a small number of intrepid souls here and there, but is recognized the world over. In the past six months I have lectured in four continents to many thousands of people. What brings them together is Palestine and the struggle of the Palestinian people which is now a byword for emancipation and enlightenment, regardless of all the vilification heaped on them by their enemies.

Whenever the facts are made known, there is immediate recognition and an expression of the most profound solidarity with the justice of the Palestinian cause and the valiant struggle by the Palestinian people on its behalf. It is an extraordinary thing that Palestine was a central issue this year both during the Porto Alegre anti-globalization meetings as well as during the Davos and Amman meetings, both poles of the world-wide political spectrum. Just because our fellow citizens in this country are fed an atrociously biased diet of ignorance and misrepresentation by the media, when the occupation is never referred to in lurid descriptions of suicide attacks, the apartheid wall 25 feet high, five feet thick, and 350 kilometers long that Israel is building is never even shown on CNN and the networks (or so much as referred to in passing throughout the lifeless prose of the roadmap), and the crimes of war, the gratuitous destruction and humiliation, maiming, house demolitions, agricultural destruction, and death imposed on Palestinian civilians are never shown for the daily, completely routine ordeal that they are, one shouldn't be surprised that Americans in the main have a very low opinion of Arabs and Palestinians. After all, please remember that all the main organs of the establishment media, from left liberal all the way over to fringe right, are unanimously anti-Arab, anti-Muslim and anti-Palestinian. Look at the pusillanimity of the media during the buildup to an illegal and unjust war against Iraq, and look at how little coverage there was of the immense damage against Iraqi society done by the sanctions, and how relatively few accounts there were of the immense world-wide outpouring of opinion against the war. Hardly a single journalist except Helen Thomas has taken the administration to task for the outrageous lies and confected "facts" that were spun out about Iraq as an imminent military threat to the US before the war, just as now the same government propagandists, whose cynically invented and manipulated "facts" about WMD are now more or less forgotten or shrugged off as irrelevant, are let off the hook by media heavies in discussing the awful, the literally inexcusable situation for the people of Iraq that the US has now single-handedly and irresponsibly created there. However else one blames Saddam Hussein as a vicious tyrant, which he was, he had provided the people of Iraq with the best infrastructure of services like water, electricity, health, and education of any Arab country. None of this is any longer in place.

It is no wonder, then, with the extraordinary fear of seeming anti-Semitic by criticizing Israel for its daily crimes of war against innocent unarmed Palestinian civilians or criticizing the US government and being called "anti-American" for its illegal war and its dreadfully run military occupation, that the vicious media and government campaign against Arab society, culture, history and mentality that has been led by Neanderthal publicists and Orientalists like Bernard Lewis and Daniel Pipes, has cowed far too many of us into believing that Arabs really are an underdeveloped, incompetent and doomed people, and that with all the failures in democracy and development, Arabs are alone in this world for being retarded, behind the times, unmodernized, and deeply reactionary. Here is where dignity and critical historical thinking must be mobilized to see what is what and to disentangle truth from propaganda.

No one would deny that most Arab countries today are ruled by unpopular regimes and that vast numbers of poor, disadvantaged young Arabs are exposed to the ruthless forms of fundamentalist religion. Yet it is simply a lie to say, as the New York Times regularly does, that Arab societies are totally controlled, and that there is no freedom of opinion, no civil institutions, no functioning social movements for and by the people. Press laws notwithstanding, you can go to downtown Amman today and buy a communist party newspaper as well as an Islamist one; Egypt and Lebanon are full of papers and journals that suggest much more debate and discussion than these societies are given credit for; the satellite channels are bursting with diverse opinions in a dizzying variety; civil institutions are, on many levels having to do with social services, human rights, syndicates, and research institutes, very lively all over the Arab world. A great deal more must be done before we have the appropriate level of democracy, but we are on the way.

In Palestine alone there are over a 1000 NGO's and it is this vitality and this kind of activity that has kept society going, despite every American and Israeli effort made to vilify, stop or mutilate it on a daily basis. Under the worst possible circumstances, Palestinian society has neither been defeated nor has it crumbled completely. Kids still go to school, doctors and nurses still take care of their patients, men and women go to work, organizations have their meetings, and people continue to live, which seems to be an offense to Sharon and the other extremists who simply want Palestinians either imprisoned or driven away altogether. The military solution hasn't worked at all, and never will work. Why is that so hard for Israelis to see? We must help them to understand this, not by suicide bombs, but by rational argument, mass civil disobedience, organized protest, here and everywhere.

The point I am trying to make is that we have to see the Arab world generally and Palestine in particular in more comparative and critical ways than superficial and dismissive books like Lewis's What Went Wrong and Paul Wolfowitz's ignorant statements about bringing democracy to the Arab and Islamic world even begin to suggest. Whatever else is true about the Arabs, there is an active dynamic at work because as real people they live in a real society with all sorts of currents and crosscurrents in it that can't be easily caricatured as just one seething mass of violent fanaticism. The Palestinian struggle for justice is especially something with which one expresses solidarity, rather than endless criticism and exasperated, frustrating discouragement, and crippling divisiveness. Remember the solidarity here and everywhere in Latin America, Africa, Europe, Asia and Australia, and remember also that there is a cause to which many people have committed themselves, difficulties and terrible obstacles notwithstanding. Why? Because it is a just cause, a noble ideal, a moral quest for equality and human rights.

I want now to speak about dignity, which of course has a special place in every culture
known to historians, anthropologists, sociologists and humanists. I shall begin by saying immediately that it is a radically wrong Orientalist, and indeed racist proposition to accept that, unlike Europeans and Americans, Arabs have no sense of individuality, no regard for individual life, no values that express love, intimacy and understanding that are supposed to be the property exclusively of cultures like those of Europe and America that had an Renaissance, a Reformation and an Enlightenment. Among many others, it is the vulgar and jejune Thomas Friedman who has been peddling this rubbish, which has alas been picked up by equally ignorant and self-deceiving Arab intellectuals ­ I don't need to mention any names here ­ who have seen in the atrocities of 9/11 a sign that the Arab and Islamic worlds are somehow more diseased and more dysfunctional than any other, and that terrorism is a sign of a wider distortion that has occurred in any other culture.

We can leave to one side that, between them, Europe and the US account for by far the largest number of violent deaths during the 20th century, the Islamic world hardly a fraction of it. And behind all of that specious unscientific nonsense about wrong and right civilizations, there is the grotesque shadow of the great false prophet Samuel Huntington who has led a lot of people to believe that the world can be divided into distinct civilizations battling against each other forever. On the contrary, Huntington is dead wrong on every point he makes. No culture or civilization exists by itself; none is made up of things like individuality and enlightenment that are completely exclusive to it; and none exists without the basic human attributes of community, love, value for life and all the others. To suggest otherwise as he does is the purest invidious racism of the same stripe as people who argue that Africans have naturally inferior brains, or that Asians are really born for servitude, or that Europeans are a naturally superior race. This is a sort of parody of Hitlerian science directed uniquely today against Arab and Muslims, and we must be very firm as to not even go through the motions of arguing against it. It is the purest drivel. On the other hand, there is the much more credible and serious stipulation that, like every other instance of humanity, Arab and Muslim life has an inherent value and dignity which are expressed by Arabs and Muslims in their unique cultural style, and those expressions needn't resemble or be a copy of one approved model suitable for everyone to follow.

The whole point about human diversity is that it is in the end a form of deep co-existence between very different styles of individuality and experience that can't all be reduced to one superior form: this is the spurious argument foisted on us by pundits who bewail the lack of development and knowledge in the Arab world. All one has to do is to look at the huge variety of literature, cinema, theater, painting, music and popular culture produced by and for Arabs from Morocco to the Gulf. Surely that needs to be assessed as an indication of whether or not Arabs are developed, and not just how on any given day statistical tables of industrial production either indicate an appropriate level of development or they show failure.

The more important point I want to make, though, is that there is a very wide discrepancy today between our cultures and societies and the small group of people who now rule these societies. Rarely in history has such power been so concentrated in so tiny a group as the various kings, generals, sultans, and presidents who preside today over the Arabs. The worst thing about them as a group, almost without exception, is that they do not represent the best of their people. This is not just a matter of no democracy. It is that they seem to radically underestimate themselves and their people in ways that close them off, that make them intolerant and fearful of change, frightened of opening up their societies to their people, terrified most of all that they might anger big brother, that is, the United States. Instead of seeing their citizens as the potential wealth of the nation, they regard them all as guilty conspirators vying for the ruler's power.

This is the real failure, how during the terrible war against the Iraqi people, no Arab leader had the self-dignity and confidence to say something about the pillaging and military occupation of one of the most important Arab countries. Fine, it was an excellent thing that Saddam Hussein's appalling regime is no more, but who appointed the US to be the Arab mentor? Who asked the US to take over the Arab world allegedly on behalf of it citizens and bring it something called "democracy," especially at a time when the school system, the health system, and the whole economy in America are degenerating into the worst levels since the 1929 Depression. Why was the collective Arab voice NOT raised against the US's flagrantly illegal intervention, which did so much harm and inflicted so much humiliation upon the entire Arab nation? This is truly a colossal failure in nerve, in dignity, in self-solidarity.

With all the Bush administration's talk about guidance from the Almighty, doesn't one Arab leader have the courage just to say that, as a great people, we are guided by our own lights and traditions and religion? But nothing, not a word, as the poor citizens of Iraq live through the most terrible ordeals and the rest of the region quakes in its collective boots, each one petrified that his country may be next. How unfortunate the embrace of George Bush, the man whose war destroyed an Arab country gratuitously, by the combined leadership of the major Arab countries last week. Was there no one there who had the guts to remind George W. what he has done to humiliate and bring more suffering to the Arab people than anyone before him, and must he always be greeted with hugs, smiles, kisses and low bows? Where is the diplomatic and political and economic support necessary to sustain an anti-occupation movement on the West Bank and Gaza? Instead all one hears is that foreign ministers preach to the Palestinians to mind their ways, avoid violence, and keep at the peace negotiations, even though it has been so obvious that Sharon's interest in peace is just about zero. There has been no concerted Arab response to the separation wall, or to the assassinations, or to collective punishment, only a bunch of tired clichés repeating the well-worn formulas authorized by the State Department.

Perhaps the one thing that strikes me as the low point in Arab inability to grasp the dignity of the Palestinian cause is expressed by the current state of the Palestinian Authority. Abu Mazen, a subordinate figure with little political support among his own people, was picked for the job by Arafat, Israel, and the US precisely because he has no constituency, is not an orator or a great organizer, or anything really except a dutiful aide to Yasir Arafat, and because I am afraid they see in him a man who will do Israel's bidding, how could even Abu Mazen stand there in Aqaba to pronounce words written for him, like a ventriloquist's puppet, by some State Department functionary, in which he commendably speaks about Jewish suffering but then amazingly says next to nothing about his own people's suffering at the hands of Israel? How could he accept so undignified and manipulated a role for himself, and how could he forget his self-dignity as the representative of a people that has been fighting heroically for its rights for over a century just because the US and Israel have told him he must? And when Israel simply says that there will be a "provisional" Palestinian state, without any contrition for the horrendous amount of damage it has done, the uncountable war crimes, the sheer sadistic systematic humiliation of every single Palestinian, man, woman, child, I must confess to a complete lack of understanding. As to why a leader or representative of that long-suffering people doesn't so much as take note of it. Has he entirely lost his sense of dignity?

Has he forgotten that since he is not just an individual but also the bearer of his people's fate at an especially crucial moment? Is there anyone who was not bitterly disappointed at this total failure to rise to the occasion and stand with dignity ­ the dignity of his people's experience and cause ­ and testify to it with pride, and without compromise, without ambiguity, without the half embarrassed, half apologetic tone that Palestinian leaders take when they are begging for a little kindness from some totally unworthy white father?

But that has been the behavior of Palestinian rulers since Oslo and indeed since Haj Amin, a combination of misplaced juvenile defiance and plaintive supplication. Why on earth do they always think it absolutely necessary to read scripts written for them by their enemies? The basic dignity of our life as Arabs in Palestine, throughout the Arab world, and here in America, is that we are our own people, with a heritage, a history, a tradition and above all a language that is more than adequate to the task of representing our real aspirations, since those aspirations derive from the experience of dispossession and suffering that has been imposed on each Palestinian since 1948. Not one of our political spokespeople ­ the same is true of the Arabs since Abdel Nasser's time ­ ever speaks with self-respect and dignity of what we are, what we want, what we have done, and where we want to go.

Slowly, however, the situation is changing, and the old regime made up of the Abu Mazens and Abu Ammars of this world, is passing and will gradually be replaced by a new set of emerging leaders all over the Arab world. The most promising is made up of the members of the National Palestinian Initiative; they are grass roots activists whose main activity is not pushing papers on a desk, nor juggling bank accounts, nor looking for journalists to pay attention to them, but who come from the ranks of the professionals, the working classes, and young intellectuals and activists, the teachers, doctors, lawyers, working people who have kept society going while also fending off daily Israeli attacks. Second, these are people committed to the kind of democracy and popular participation undreamt of by the Authority, whose idea of democracy is stability and security for itself. Lastly, they offer social services to the unemployed, health to the uninsured and the poor, proper secular education to a new generation of Palestinians who must be taught the realities of the modern world, not just the extraordinary worth of the old one. For such programs, the NPI stipulates that getting rid of the occupation is the only way forward, and that in order to do that, a representative national unified leadership be elected freely to replace the cronies, the outdated, and the ineffectiveness that have plagued Palestinian leaders for the past century.

Only if we respect ourselves as Arabs and Americans, and understand the true dignity and justice of our struggle, only then can we appreciate why, almost despite ourselves, so many people all over the world, including Rachel Corrie and the two young people wounded with her from ISM, Tom Hurndall and Brian Avery, have felt it possible to express their solidarity with us.

I conclude with one last irony. Isn't it astonishing that all the signs of popular solidarity that Palestine and the Arabs receive occur with no comparable sign of solidarity and dignity for ourselves, that others admire and respect us more than we do ourselves? Isn't it time we caught up with our own status and made certain that our representatives here and elsewhere realize, as a first step, that they are fighting for a just and noble cause, and that they have nothing to apologize for or anything to be embarrassed about? On the contrary, they should be proud of what their people have done and proud also to represent them. 

 

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