The Palestine industry

Posted on 10 July 2012

Having been really unwell for the first few days, I’ve not been writing my journal as often as usual, so there’s quite a lot to get through. Not having internet all the time has also impeded me! But despite being ill, I’ve managed to meet some impressive people, visit some troubled places, and see some hopeful signs for the future.

R is in her element. With so many cousins to play with, I’ve hardly seen her since we arrived! I’m not sure that her Arabic is improving in any meaningful way, but her confidence is and that’s important, as is time with her family.  J is doing quite a bit of research for his dissertation and is off at a conference about non-violence this morning.

The other day he interviewed someone very active here. Afterwards, a friend who had gone along with him said it was the first time he has ever seen two Palestinians talk like that! He often facilitates between people visiting and activists here and what he meant was that these conversations are always between a Palestinian and a foreigner. It is always foreigners coming here, studying Palestinians, examining Palestinians, never a Palestinian from here researching and studying the issues that shape everyday life.

In many ways Palestine has become an industry, and for some people, without the conflict, I don’t know what they’d do! The number of books about Palestine, films about Palestine, papers about Palestine, articles about Palestine, PhDs about Palestine. And more often than not, it is not Palestinians behind this vast body of work. I hope to see much greater Palestinian involvement in these areas as it seems that their voices can often be drowned out by the sheer volume of material available. That is a shame as no one can understand the Palestinian experience the way a Palestinian does.

Someone once said to me, many years ago: “We’re not exhibits in a zoo, whenever a foreigner comes I feel like I am being examined. I am a human being! And then they go and nothing changes.” I suspect he feels similar today as he did then, and I can understand why. But perhaps he can also see there are positive contributions that some people have made by coming here, learning what’s really happening, and taking this back to wherever they came from.

At the moment, in many ways the struggle is taking place outside Palestine, in the Diaspora and through international solidarity activities. After the second intifada, people here were tired. Tired of violence, tired of living under such extreme oppression, tired of fighting, tired of the life that they were forced into living. So when the international money began to pour in, it’s understandable that for many people this offered a more comfortable life, a safer life, a more predictable life.

In Palestine, much of the resistance activities are contained in small, localised pockets across the West Bank, mainly centred on land issues specific to a particular village or town (such as Al Ma’sara). It’s not a national liberation struggle at present, it’s not even about the occupation. But like nature itself, everything happens in cycles. There is flux, and what is powerful one day need not be the next, and what seems so distant today can be within one’s grasp tomorrow.

And so the struggle of Palestinians to achieve their rights and to achieve their freedom will continue, on many stages and with many actors. But the struggle will return here one day, and hopefully that will be the final scene, the end being real freedom and true justice.

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