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Libyan Writer Ghoma
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Saturday, 17 January, 2009

Between Schadenfreude and Impotence!

By: Ghoma

"Our enemies' opinion of us comes closer to the truth than our own."
                                                         Francois La Rochefoucauld

        Whether Hamas or Fatah comes closer to the Palestinians' collective will and represents their aspirations, is something only the Palestinians have to decide on. Certainly, not by the Zionists, or by their Western allies, nor by the local imperialists' lackeys and the rest of the hypocrites. As to rest of the Arabs, the Palestinian split is more symptomatic of a deeper malady that gnaws at their deepest viscera and perhaps responsible for what made them a dysfunctional family. The long-lived impasse and the subsequent cultural-political atrophying and polarization, while their roots may go deep down in history, their recent causes may have sprung from the inability to come to terms with modernity and modernization. Fatah, grosso modo, still clings to the wistful heirlooms of feigned and fading some hybrid-secular brew; while Hamas, embodies that other ragged trait so entrenched in the area's collective psyche, forming its recurrent versions of self-consciousness: religious revivals. If the religious lore, the otherworldly, comes close to express Arabs' ingrained cultural makeup and embodies their social dispositions; the worldly, then, to the extent it's secular, would have no place at their table. However, these two trends are doomed to failure, not only because the cultural milieu that spawned them, is frittering away, but above all because of the frazzled collective consciousness. This can be seen in the ferous strife between the two trends, caused more than from the incongruence of their ideologies but more so acute, from the utter incompatibility of their worldviews. This dilemma has created its own vicious circle. It's limited the horizons to what's possible, restricting it to a pair of incompatible dualities which have kept the area trapped in its own putrefied cud. This cultural narrowing of choices has worked its way up and down to deny Arabs the freedoms they never had. Thus despite the ideological spectrum's malleability to accommodate the trendy and the passe, the liberal and the conservative, the future and the past, Arab cultural sclerosis has branded any choice, as an innovation, and any innovation as a curse. The paralysis of the imagination has prevented the seeding of new ideas, and most importantly the circulation of the new to take its course. That's why still any exchange soon turns into dithering and finger-pointing, among factions which, still remain in the 21st century recognizable only through their blood-related loyalties, belief adherence, to a sect, tribe or family connections; light years from where the modern world's belongings are: to a cause, to an ideal or to a worldview. Hence, modernity still has very little traction in an environment where loyalties are still structured on traditional bonds, which in their turn, have perpetuated the myth of the absolutism, and gave rise to all the various absurd and presumptuous claims to the truths.

        Ideologies and parties may mean healthy and life-sustaining exchanges in peace time but very little when the shooting starts. So are the loyalties to a particular faction or creed or adherence to specific ideas. If these have at times the merit to distinguish the good from the heap, they're not as equally efficient when it comes to survival. Since the will to fight, patriotism, loyalties to one's tribe or ideal, were never property of one faction or a monopoly to a particular sect, the proof is in pudding, as they say in English. All creeds, sects, and ideologies contain an element of incitement to fight for one's cause(s), to defend one's land, liberty and life. Vigilance to one's freedom is no virtue to one particular belief system, it was as old, if not older, than the first altar ritual. Organized religions, in their essence, were liberation movements, which sadly, have been turning, again slowly but consistently through time, into mere turf feuds. Their modern counterpart, secularism, on the other hand, was originally and essentially, intended to put an end to the squabbles of absolutisms, and to mitigate the excesses of dogmatism. Its aim to set humans back on their feet and to put some sense and reason into their conduct. Both trends, the sacred and the mundane, were attempts to deal with the world, the one by Divine dictates, the other by worldly means. The first had more than taken its turn, perhaps it's time to let the second gets its chance.

        This introductory note was necessitated by what is happening these days: the barrages of untimely criticisms against an under assault faction, Hamas, from all directions, including Arabs. Whether Hamas is right or wrong, whether it's provoked the enemy, and whether it can fight, all these considerations are now beside the point. The fact of the matter Hamas, at this time, is the only force defending the land and fighting for the Palestinians' cause. Commonsense, patriotism, etc., would suggest that all squabbles come to an end, and all other groups and factions join the fight until it's pushed back and then they could resume their feuds at where were left. Fatah, other Arab states, parties, etc., have the ethical and moral obligations to come to the help of Hamas and the Gazans. It's morally wrong and politically perilous for Arab states to hide behind lame excuses, as differing with the combatants' ideologies or ways of seeing the future. At this point it's a matter of life or death, anything else is superfluous and a luxury!

        Such calls will fall on deaf ears not because the fragmentation and weakness in the so-called 'Arab world' are everywhere but more importantly they've lost the glue that kept them together: pride of belonging to a cultural and ethnic area. The cultural-geographical denomination has become indeed a misnomer. The world in the "Arab World!" must refer to their hodgepodge enchilada? Since time immemorial the various constituent elements remained as such, Mesopotemians, Syrians, Phoenicians, Arabians, Yemenis, Egyptians, Libyans. Sudanese, Moroccans and Mauritanians, etc., never were fused together to form a soup. There was no melting pot, only a system of belief that tied them loosely together. Thus, the heterogenous groups, though may have mingled together, had never merged into a whole bigger than the various components. They'd started as tribes and they're still tribes, though called states! Everytime there's an attack on one of them, divisions among Arabs become sharper than the tones, shades, and hews of their accouterments. Those colorful rags have become badges identifying the embarrassing stands -in lockstep with their leash-holders and patrons- than denoting any cultural identity or pride. Such a fakery only exposed the vast abyss between rulers and ruled: governments' interests and people's guts are poles apart. They're on opposite sides: people, as usual, take things in their essence, while governments see things from their viewpoints: a distorted 'national security' viewpoint. For example, Governments were bound by where the biggies stand, so each government must coordinate its moves with the particular power(s) which backs it up. Where the US Government stands not only influences but in most of the cases determines where the so-called 'Arab moderate regimes' stand. The question what would happen if an Arab government chooses to stand out on its own? The 'what else!' probably will kick in, and the so-called 'aid' will dry up in no time.

        Given the way of the world. How the world spins and functions is far from the weak to influence and much less to determine. Thus, one may understand why some Arab governments do what they do. However, this understanding doesn't extend to all sectors of the various Arab societies. Certainly one cannot understand most of the drool coming from commentators and spokespersons these days. The gist of it was to blur the moral boundaries between the aggressor and the victim. The shortsightedness thrusts Hamas' ideological stands and its model for the future into its current predicament. It may be the case, given Hamas was quarantined and pushed into isolation as if it was a leprous creature. The dislike has only confounded the ideological stands with the will, if not capacity, to wage wars and fighting them. Even if some of its practices may be a loathsome, only history will decide how far deviated from the present Arabs' Zeitgeist. At any case, time of war is the wrong time to settle ideological stands or to decide who's right and who is wrong.

        It's been a stereotype of the Arab as an awkward stiff, standing for what's wrong and fighting for what was passe. The cliche may have sprung from Arabs' fighting modern wars with medieval techniques and outlook. Religiofied culture has spawned and kept factions, sects, tribes at each others' throats. The result is all these social and cultural distortions have added to an already misguided and misconstrued understandings of how politics works in the contemporary world. If Arabs through the ages had lagged in civic discourse, they're still a distance away from this tradition: Different ideas, ideologies, stands and positions clash with each other, on what's the best way to run a government or to face the future, but come together whenever one comes under attack. Squabbles only make it easier for each to be hanged separately. To the attacker makes very little difference what color the enemy belongs to. Israel and the West have long stoked and utilized the innate traits of the tribes to sow discord. If modernity stands for anything, it stands against mutual hostilities: As Voltaire had put it: "I may differ with your views, but I'm ready to give my life so that you can express them freely." (Or something to that effect!).

        Thus the attacks against Hamas, and indeed, against all of Gaza Strip, these days, when they're under tremendous bombardments days and nights were definitely beyond the pale of tolerance. If a state or a group disagrees with what they're doing, the least one can do is to keep quiet -if he/she cannot do anything else to ease some of the misery the Gazans must be going through. Opening another front of attack against Hamas and its fighters, not only that's just what Israel and its Western allies' Media are doing, but above all is inching on treason. The spreading of venomous lies and misleading campaigns are indeed hurtful policies across the board. Arab thinkers must know better and avoid falling into the trap of parroting slogans of those who wish them ill.

        From Palestinian Authority to the Egyptian government, Jordan, etc. going around spreading their differences with Hamas, and blaming it for 'provoking' the Israelis, as these later were in need of excuses to do what they always have done. For, it's well-known, Israel's so-called national security was based on never giveing the enemy a chance to stand on his feet, kick him while is on the ground. Nip it in the bud before it gets worse!


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