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2006-07-05,10:02 AM

Redefining the content of the Palestinian discourse

By Salim Nazzal

This thought jumped to mind two weeks ago. While in Sweden for a seminar to debate the role of religion in solving the Palestinian question, I was talking to my friend, Father Jamal Khudur from the Latin Church in Palestine.

The seminar was attended by a Jewish Rabbi and Palestinian Muslims and Christians. I hasten to say that I am not against the dialogue between faiths. I am rather concerned about focusing on the real content of the Palestinian struggle, such as freedom, self determination, and the salvation from the Israeli occupation.

I am aware that the question of the role of religion in modern societies, and consequently the dialogue between cultures, was among the most debated, especially post 11th of September. Even prior to the September attacks, events occurred in the former Yugoslav and Islamic countries demonstrating the continuous influence of religion in present societies. Even in the most multi-ethnic and multi-religious countries like the United States of America, we have seen the revival of religion as perhaps never before in the history of that country. This appears to have shocked those that assume modernity and secular values have won, and yet, religion was in retreat. Yet religion itself continues, and in many parts of the world, it appears to be experiencing a revival.

Religion and politics are not however an Islamic phenomenon par excellence. For instance, Modern Europe has Christian political parties. Israel was established on religious justification despite the founders being secular, India has Janata party. Yet the point of the article is to call for redefining the conflict in Palestine, especially after the Zionist state took the initiative in the aftermath of the September 11th attacks to declare that Israel also has its bin Laden.

Of course, any Palestinian school girl or school boy knows the opportunist nature of Zionism. Israel, joining the side which fights terror (a word that is ideologically used and misused by Israel, to label the Palestinian struggle as terror). Here, comes the Palestinian responsibility of redefining the Palestinian struggle as it always was a struggle for freedom and for self-determinations.

Palestinians need to reformulate their political discourse in order to make their goals very clear. The clash between culture theories is manipulated by Zionists to label the Palestinian struggle for freedom with terror. The conflict with Israel is political par excellence, and if it is not political, what is politics about?

Palestine's modern history demonstrates clearly that Palestinians have fought whoever occupied their country: the proof that they fought all occupation in regards of the faith of the occupation. They fought the Christian European invaders in the middle ages during the crusaders war. They fought the Muslim Ottomans in the 18th century revolution, led by Dhaher Al Omar in one of the earliest independent movements in the Arab Middle East.

They launched perhaps the first guerilla war in modern history against Napoleon, and defeated him on the hills of Nablus and Jenen, and on the shore of Akka. The Palestinians resisted the British occupation from the very beginning in 1917, and in the great revolution of 1936. In the struggle against Zionism, Palestinian Muslims and Christians are united in their fight for freedom.

For Israel, the enemy is the Palestinian freedom fighter: whether it was the Christian George Habash, or the Muslim Yasser Arafat. Despite that, we cannot deny the fact that Israel succeeded in confusing some of the public opinion, by embedding the Palestinian struggle with the terror done by the name of Islam. Instead of putting Israel as the terror state, as the state which has a record in defying the international laws, the oppressed Palestinians are labeled as terrorists.

Palestinians need, more than ever, to send a clear message that their struggle is not religious, but primarily political. The Palestinian fight is not because Palestine is a sacred place, but because it is their ancestor’s home. One loves his or her country, not because it happens to be rich, poor or sacred, but because on its soil he or she can identify with themselves. In Palestine, Palestinians developed their cultural heritage; songs, folklore, food, proverbs etc.

The following Palestinian proverb reflects the spirit of Palestinians in resisting foreign invasions. 'If the city of Akka is scared of the sea, it won’t be sitting on its shore'. This proverb was born during the French invasion of Palestine in 1801, during Napoleon besieging of the city of Akka, a long time before Zionists arrived to the Middle East, and a long time before Huntington thesis about his "clash of civilizations."

Dr Salim nazzal is a Palestinian Norwegian researcher. The author of (Educating Palestinians in exile.1993). He has written extensively on social and political issues in the Middle East. E mail:gibran44@hotmail.com

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