Home > Columnists > Optimism and the good struggle | Mazin Qumsiyeh

Optimism and the good struggle | Mazin Qumsiyeh

This article by Mazin Qumsiyeh he shared 10 years ago. It is still relevant today:

Occasionally I get asked by those who receive these emails if I get discouraged about the status of a affairs dominated by those with greed and/or hate.  The reality is sometimes indeed very harsh and may even be harsher than most of us are willing to confront.  Those in power seem to get more powerful and more arrogant with time as they go about their grisly “business” (and it is a business now) of crushing people and concentrating wealth and power.  In the issue of the colonization of Palestine, we even observe a proliferation of an industry called the “peace process” that seems to be profitable to some.  This peace process industry welcomes collaborators and those who have decided to give up the struggle and just join the elite in power (if and when they are allowed because they are found “useful idiots”!).  Some of these folks start talking about Israeli “security” in hope for some crumbs from the table of their oppressor.  Two problems that those people and their handlers fail to appreciate:

a) What is being gobbled on the oppressors’ table is nothing short of humanity, people’s natural resources (land, water etc.), and more important the FUTURE of our children (Israelis, Palestinians, Americans etc).

b) That you need not have to “win” to engage in the good struggle

It is this latter point I want to address in detail since most people understand ‘a’ but fail to understand ‘b’.  The struggle can be and indeed must be carried out when winning and establishing power is not guaranteed or even doable.  This is because the good struggle accomplishes a lot by checking the unlimited accumulation of power based on greed.  After all, by definition, those who are motivated by Greed have the handicap of not being able to set internal limits on lust for power.  The more charitable way to think of it is that good people at least do not let a drunk get access to keys of cars.  More concretely, the struggle in forms ranging from teach-ins, mass demonstrations, boycotts and divestments, was indeed were critical in both the civil rights movement, for the final withdrawal of US forces from Vietnam, final end of US and corporate support for Apartheid South Africa, and just about every significant social movement.

But the struggle also is important in less obvious situations.  Without the mass good struggle, US neocons would now be in Syria and/or Iran.  They would have killed far more Iraqi civilians.  They would have had no interest in public relations campaigns about the abuses in Iraq and Guantanamo.  They would have had no interest in reversing such ludicrous ideas as changing Iraqi flag with its Arab character to one with an anti-Arab character.  They would have not started any investigations of the massive financial riggings and corruption.  I could go on with other examples on this Iraqi front but let me switch to the related issue of Israeli colonization of Palestine.

It is true that colonization activities continue while the peace process industry hums along trying to co-opt any resistance to the occupation and land confiscation.  It is true that one is reminded of the same media hype following the signings of Oslo I and Oslo II where the Palestinian authority under Yasser Arafat was working hard to contain and stop any acts of resistance. (I remember even the CIA and Shin Bet issued glowing reports on this effort). Meanwhile Israel continued its “bulldozer policy”: land confiscation, colony building, and cantonization/ghettoization of the increasingly impoverished Palestinians.  Then, as now, we have constant talk by the Israeli government of “disengagement” and “redeployment” while Palestinian quislings like Dahlan talked in the wishful-thinking terms of Israeli “withdrawal” and a Palestinian state! Both Israeli officials and now the “acceptable” Palestinian officials speak the same general language in most areas (for example assiduously avoiding any mention of compliance with international law, human rights, ending occupation, ending colonization activities etc).  OK so you know all of this and it looks bleak (as indeed many of us warned in the analogous years 0f 1994-1997).   Now you ask, how is there anything positive to look at in terms of what WE DO.  Well, we do have lots of positive signs.  Here are just a few.

1) There is a proliferation of groups and number of people interested in helping (I know that for the ones I am involved in, there has been a doubling in the past two years alone). Their effectiveness is becoming more obvious in the media and even among politicians (why do you think Condi Rice is now talking about a viable and contiguous Palestinian state).

2) The pressure (due to activists working the media and politicians) helped in many instances in stopping home demolitions and land confiscation.  The most recent example is Israel’s backtracking on home confiscations in East Jerusalem and in some aspects (obviously not sufficient) or rerouting the Apartheid wall.

3) There is a proliferation of divestment and boycott campaign that is now in the logarithmic growth phase and is likely to achieve critical volume in 2-5 years IMHO.  Most recently the University of Wisconsin Faculty added their voice to dozens of other groups (including Church groups) in calling for boycotts and divestments.  Being involved in internal discussion in other groups, I know that several additional announcements are forthcoming in the next two months including from very influential groups.

4) The massive support for the Palestinian cause derives from the fact that it is a basic human rights cause that provides the Achilles’ heel of neocon and Zionist aspirations to hegemony and dominance not only in the Middle East but here in America and around the world (witness how those who profit from the so called “war on drugs” are the same people who profit from the so called “war on terrorism”).  Hence what is encouraging is how labor against the war, minorities, Native Americans, and millions of disenfranchised people joined the struggle.  When one looks at any gathering at the dozens of well-funded “think tanks” in Washington DC (funded by the corporations that profit), one is struck by how uniform the audience is.  People are not fooled by the presence of the “uncle Tom”/Chief Buthelezi types in either the Bush administration (Condi Rice, Gonzales) or by the presence of these types being “elected” in Afghanistan (Karzai), Iraq (e.g. Alawi, Chalabi), or the upcoming attempts at shaping an “acceptable Palestinian partner”.  More people instead are speaking out and they are of all nationalities, ethnicities, religions, etc.  Perhaps this explains why some democrats are finally showing some backbone in opposition to the nominations of the likes of “torture boy” Gonzales.

5) The International Court of Justice ruled last July not only that the segregation/apartheid wall was illegal but also that all Israeli settlements/colonies in the areas occupied in 1967 are illegal (including East Jerusalem).  This was combined with the recent statement b UN officials explaining that Israel remains an occupying power per the Geneva Convention definitions) even if it “redeploys” its troops and settlers.  This is because Israel retains its troops surrounding these Palestinian enclaves like Gaza and controlling entry and exit, thus refusing to grant Palestinians their freedom.  International Law rejects concepts like turning Gaza into a large Israeli prison.

6) The fact that Palestinians have never given up their struggle for freedom despite the incredible pressures and history of ethnic cleansing and destruction (so far nearly 2/3rds of the nine million Palestinians are refugees or displaced people and over 200,000 have been killed in the past 56 years).   If they did not give up, why should those in the West who care for peace give up?

These and other examples of good things grow in a space near the suffocation of those in power; a space created by those challenging entrenched power.  Life is always a struggle and if it has any secret it is precisely that it is a struggle and that progress happens as a result of so many good people constantly challenging and speaking truth to power (“trouble makers” in a good sense). On a personal level the biggest victory is not to capitulate and not to sell your soul to the highest bidder but instead to live and work for peace with justice. As the Buddhist saying goes..”having JOYFUL PARTICIPATION in the sorrows of this world.”

Links for today:

Uri Avnery in Counterpunch: When a draw is a victory for the weak http://www.counterpunch.org/avnery02012005.html

Demographic Politics by Aluf Benn http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/objects/pages/PrintArticleEn.jhtml?itemNo=534939

(Jews) Speaking out about Israel to save the Jewish soul  http://jordantimes.com/tue/opinion/opinion3.htm

Optimism is one thing, bulldozers another by Amira Hass http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/objects/pages/PrintArticleEn.jhtml?itemNo=534935

Children of Iraq (pictures, some graphic content) http://www.zonaeuropa.com/01467.htm

Harakat Al-Kifah: Iraqi resistance movement creates new website (in Arabic) http://www.kifah.org

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