‘Morbid symptoms’ in Palestine

Israel/Palestine
on 21 Comments

A few nights ago, in the West Bank city of Nablus, I was awakened by sustained volleys of gunfire near the hotel where I was staying. The Hotel al-Yasmeen, is located in the town’s old al-Qasaba market district  –  yes, it’s the “Casbah” — whose narrow streets and alleys had been the scene of frequent armed clashes between various Palestinian resistance groups and Israeli security forces over the years, including other times that I had been visiting.

Disregarding the warnings of the hotel staff, I ventured out into the market to visit with several friends who were shopkeepers in the Qasaba.  Everywhere, almost all the food stores, workshops and market stalls were closed and sealed behind the ubiquitous steel shutters that protected them during the night. The market remained nearly deserted as shots continued to ring out sporadically from various directions.

My friends were embarrassed when I asked them what was going on.  They assured me, somewhat wearily, that this was not a clash with the Israeli army, but instead the fighting was between two extended Palestinian family networks, the Halawe and the Hamame, who were struggling for influence in the city and competing over “protection money” exacted from the city’s merchant classes.  It was an internal bid for power, which was mildly opposed only by a few Palestinian security units.  Three Palestinian policemen were said to be wounded in the fighting.

However, the Israeli army, which did not hesitate to invade Nablus at night, in violation of the Oslo Agreement, to confront or arrest Palestinian activists or to seize illegal weapons, stayed out of it entirely.  Apparently they regarded armed clashes between Palestinians with benign tolerance.

This sad state of affairs was on my mind at a meeting later that evening with a group of visiting Italian solidarity activists. They were mostly students from formerly “Red” Bologna, but one of the young women proudly introduced herself as coming from Sardinia, birthplace of the famous revolutionary and theorist Antonio Gramsci. Gramsci, who spent the last 11 years of his life in Mussolini’s prisons, died in 1937 at the age of only 46. His ashes were later interred in Rome’s non-Catholic (“Protestant”) Cemetery, not far from the graves of the British poets Keats and Shelley.

In prison, Gramsci wrote voluminously, though out of necessity in somewhat veiled “Aesopian” language, and became a source of inspiration to postwar radicals when his Prison Notebooks were posthumously published in the 1950’s.

Among Gramsci’s well-known observations about his own time, which saw the rise of Fascism, is this one:

“The crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear.”

Nothing can better describe the internal situation in Palestine today.  (And not just Palestine, of course!)

The political situation is bleak these days on both sides of the former “Green Line.”  The old project for an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza has reached a dead end. The Oslo process that began with high hopes more than twenty years ago is thoroughly discredited, along with the Palestinian Authority that was its creation. It is obvious now, as critics like Edward Said wrote at the time of the Oslo Agreement, that no Israeli Zionist parties of the “Left” or the Right were ever prepared to grant true statehood to any Palestinian territory within the Land of Israel.  Everyone now understands this, apart from cynical Israeli propagandists and wishful-thinking US politicians.

As a result, the old leadership and the Palestinian political parties in the Occupied Territories have mostly lost their legitimacy.  The activists of the First Intifada generation of the 1980s are exhausted after spending years in Israeli prisons and seeing their hopes for a Palestinian state fade. And despite determined resistance on a local level in some West Bank villages, most of the population – apart from a minority who profit from connections to the Palestinian Authority or the well-funded NGOs — is hunkered down in the hard daily struggle for survival.

In the largely Arab populated “Triangle” area of central Israel (“1948” as it is referred to by most Palestinians) where I am staying  now, crime is also widespread and largely ignored, if not actually encouraged, by the Israeli authorities. The crowded ghetto city of Taibe, with its mean streets and depressed economy, is sometimes jokingly referred to here as Tshikago (“Chicago”) for its high instance of violence and gang murder.

Despite some hopes raised by the joining of the various Palestinian parties in Israel under the Joint List in the last Knesset elections, Israel’s minority is facing growing repression from the increasingly rightwing Zionist society and government.

Not surprisingly, here as in the rest of the Arab world many are turning to religion in response to the failure of the various liberation and nationalist or socialist projects.  More women are covered now, even in the urban centers that were formerly much more secular.  Many of the population practice a religious-inspired political quietism or wait for some apocalyptic solution for the existing impasse.

In the Israeli-Palestinian town of Qalansuwe, where I have many friends, the leftist Democratic Front (Hadash in Hebrew, Jabha in Arabic) has lost much of its influence.  The mayor of the town is now from the Muslim religious party – and the defiant statue of Salahaddin that once dominated the town square has been taken down as against religion and replaced by an Arabic text: Udhkuru Allah (“Mention God”).

It is from this context of paralysis and despair that the wave of individual suicidal attacks by Palestinian youth has risen.  Some have called it the “Knife Intifada.”  Israel and its supporters abroad refer to this phenomenon as a new wave of “terror” – even though the targets are overwhelmingly military or police forces of the occupation.

The courage and self-sacrifice of the mostly teenaged attackers, who are frequently executed on the spot by Israeli security forces, is universally recognized by Palestinian society, even if most also mourn the loss of life without any discernible political purpose. Rather than responding to “incitement” by the Palestinian leadership, as Israel charges, the PA is doing its best to frustrate these attacks.  In fact, the youthful knife wielders are acting out of individual despair and their sacrifice expresses a rebuke to the ineffective leadership of their elders as much as anything else.

Nevertheless, in this moment of failure and “morbid symptoms” it is also true that nearly every Palestinian expresses a sure confidence in their eventual success, even if the time frame may be vague or long-delayed.  It is hard to find anyone here who accepts that the Zionist project is permanent, at least in its present form —  or that the liberation struggle will ultimately fail.

Here, it’s worth remembering another of Gramsci’s famous aphorisms:

“The challenge of modernity is to live without illusions and without becoming disillusioned … [what is required, despite] pessimism of the intellect, [is] optimism of the will.”

About Jeff Klein

Jeff Klein, is a retired local union president, a long-time Palestine solidarity activist and a board member of Mass Peace Action. He has a blog: http://atmyangle.blogspot.com/

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21 Responses

  1. Boomer
    April 3, 2016, 2:35 pm

    Thanks for this report on a reality–enabled by the U.S.–that seems to be utterly ignored by U.S. politicians and mainstream media. They are not allowed to have a decent life where they are, nor are they allowed to leave.

  2. ritzl
    April 3, 2016, 3:26 pm

    I’m new to this. I think there are some territories out in Arizona that are occupied by somebody or other. Are those the territories you’re talking about?

    Why do Palestinians live in Arizona and what’s their beef? Some parts of Arizona are really pretty nice. Palestinians must really be an ungrateful bunch. No wonder everyone thinks they’re nuts.

    • ritzl
      April 3, 2016, 4:20 pm
      • Kay24
        April 3, 2016, 7:33 pm

        The majority of nations except the ones that the zionists control or have devious connections with. No wonder Israel is one of the most disliked nations in the world.

      • Boomer
        April 4, 2016, 9:16 pm

        The countries that don’t recognize Palestine largely correspond with those that dominated the new UN when it created Israel, i.e., the old colonial powers and the U.S., plus a few client states.

    • ritzl
      April 4, 2016, 7:12 am

      And here’s why using the phrase OCCUPIED PALESTINE is so important:

      https://platosguns.com/2016/04/04/who-occupies-whom-in-israel-palestine-dont-ask-an-american-eric-schulerantiwar-com/#more-29853 (Thanks Taxi.)

      It clears this engineered, hasbara-instilled, identity-destroying, de-contextualizing ignorance right up — in two words or less.

      • Kay24
        April 4, 2016, 8:09 am

        That is so interesting. It simply shows how the zionist propaganda, through the zionist controlled media, has been successful in brainwashing naive Americans into believe that BS.
        Unfortunately, we have a very bad image around the world, of being ignorant, and totally wrong on many international issues, and especially now that the media is making Trump look like the accepted hero, many people abroad are incredulous that Trump can get so far, and that the American people are okay with the bigotry, hatred, and a low caliber candidate.

        I guess the zionists need to hoodwink the people into believing that they are the victims of all
        the violence, occupation, and that they have a right to building on stolen lands, or else the
        people will demand that the endless charity and weapons that keep going there, and the parasites will suffer the consequences. We have a serious problem of brainwashing by zionists in the US, where the facts are distorted, and biased propaganda holding strong. It may also mean that other nations are smarter than us. Didn’t we vote for George Bush TWICE?
        We were called a nation of idiots by others.

        I guess it is definitely important that people keep referring to the occupied territories as “occupied Palestine”, some simple words to make simple minds grasp the truth.

      • ritzl
        April 4, 2016, 7:10 pm

        Agree Kay. The false reality is so pervasive that every opportunity has to be taken to counter it/reset the starting point/assert facts.

        Hey Amigo, Just curious, but would using “occupied territories” be similar to calling Northern Ireland “The Plantation?”

      • Boomer
        April 4, 2016, 9:11 pm

        re ” . . . it is definitely important that people keep referring to the occupied territories as “occupied Palestine”, some simple words to make simple minds grasp the truth.”

        I agree that is a good linguistic move, one that may help with some Americans who are simply not well informed.

        However, I’ve observed that for Zionists the magic phrase is “disputed territories.” For them, that removes all moral or legal problems associated with the dispossession and oppression of Palestinians. What’s Israel’s is Israel, the rest is simply disputed. Who can say to whom it belongs? It is “disputed,” until Israel takes it too.

  3. just
    April 3, 2016, 4:36 pm

    I’m not entirely sure what you are trying to say, Jeff Klein. Feuds happen everywhere, don’t they? I’ll bet they happen in Dorchester, too. It has quite a rep for crimes. Many notable (and some notorious) people come from Dorchester~ Joe and Rose Kennedy, Whitey Bulger, Sheldon Adelson, Spock, The Scarecrow and more than a few Puritans were/are from Dorchester, Mass. aka ‘Dot’. MLK spent lots of time there with other civil rights folks while getting his PhD @ BU.

    How is this helpful to the Occupied and forever imprisoned Palestinians?

    • gamal
      April 3, 2016, 6:03 pm

      “I’m not entirely sure what you are trying to say, Jeff Klein”

      I believe it is the “cultural residue” epiphany (argument), the atlantic has something

      http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2014/03/black-pathology-and-the-closing-of-the-progressive-mind/284523/

      and this is a single page on it, funny.

      https://books.google.ie/books?id=VRa_20-M2OYC&pg=PA1984&lpg=PA1984&dq=pathologizing+the+ghetto&source=bl&ots=qeiBc5a2kN&sig=Rtezc1sO7JvQH8pjegOjZ-g6Ggc&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwij-svIq_PLAhUpAZoKHaXJANwQ6AEIJDAD#v=onepage&q=pathologizing%20the%20ghetto&f=false

      I think its a form of self expression in Jeff’s culture.

      “My friends were embarrassed when I asked them what was going on.” why would they be embarassed?

      ” the fighting was between two extended Palestinian family networks, the Halawe and the Hamame, who were struggling for influence in the city and competing over “protection money” exacted from the city’s merchant classes.”

      no wonder they like Hip Hop and have appropriated it Palestinian Crips and Bloods.

      “This sad state of affairs was on my mind at a meeting later that evening with a group of visiting Italian solidarity activists.”

      “Despite some hopes raised by the joining of the various Palestinian parties in Israel”

      “Not surprisingly, here as in the rest of the Arab world many are turning to religion” (and gangsterism)

      “the leftist Democratic Front (Hadash in Hebrew, Jabha in Arabic) has lost much of its influence.” why might that be?

      “The courage and self-sacrifice of the mostly teenaged attackers, who are frequently executed on the spot by Israeli security forces, is universally recognized by Palestinian society, even if most also mourn the loss of life without any discernible political purpose………

      Nevertheless, in this moment of failure and “morbid symptoms” it is also true that nearly every Palestinian expresses a sure confidence in their eventual success, even if the time frame may be vague or long-delayed. It is hard to find anyone here who accepts that the Zionist project is permanent, at least in its present form — or that the liberation struggle will ultimately fail.”

      you are a better man than I Gunga Din

      “Though I’ve belted you and flayed you,
      By the livin’ Gawd that made you,
      You’re a better man than I am, Gunga Din!”
      Rudyard Kipling

      “My friends were embarrassed” shows your limitations, Sunday supplement, distinctly unGramscian.

    • JWalters
      April 3, 2016, 8:02 pm

      just, you’re right that feuds are a common phenomenon. I think Klein’s and Gramsci’s point is that the general breakdown of social structures enables feuding “warlords” to fill that void.

  4. JWalters
    April 3, 2016, 7:55 pm

    “Israel’s minority is facing growing repression from the increasingly rightwing Zionist society and government.”

    This is also the fate of the American non-Jewish community if the Zionists have their way. Freedom of speech on the topic of Israel has already been crushed in America’s Establishment Media. And most of the presidential candidates today are pledging allegiance to more Zionist war.

    “It is hard to find anyone here who accepts that the Zionist project is permanent, at least in its present form — or that the liberation struggle will ultimately fail.”

    When the Zionists’ chokehold on America’s media is broken, Zionism will be finished. Americans merely need to know the facts.

  5. echinococcus
    April 4, 2016, 12:22 am

    “Israel’s minority”
    My, my. Start counting all the people under the rule of the Zionist entity.
    Add all the ones now outside the reach of said entity.
    How does it look?
    We haven’t started discussing the tourist status of the rest yet.

  6. Stogumber
    April 4, 2016, 3:23 am

    Shouldnt we look perhaps at Palestine like at Ireland? An occupation which may last centuries, interrupted with violent upheavals – a population which copes this by turning to God, but all this WILL be finished one day.
    What can we learn from Ireland? There were attempts to support the Irish, some efficient, some unefficient.

  7. Ossinev
    April 4, 2016, 7:45 am

    @stogumber
    “Shouldnt we look perhaps at Palestine like at Ireland”

    I agree that Israel`s brutality and tyranny will be ended one day but there the comparison with Ireland ends. Apart from anything else the British Army despite a host of crimes were ultimately accountable to a civilised democratic society and Government unlike the fascist and undemocratic Israeli government and society.

    Most importantly though is the fact that unlike Palestine Ireland`s colonisation was essentially a defensive measure to protect England`s / Britain`s rear end. Land theft and subjugation of the natives was simply a side effect. There were no mass murders to encourage emigration. The Irish diaspora was largely the result of voluntary emigration due to poverty and most of all due to the Great Famine.

    A further important difference. There was no long term Zionist type plot by a group of foreigners to occupy , steal a land and expel the indigenuous population.

    Similarly there were no powerful and wealthy foreign Elders supporting the colonisation , buying and bending American and European politicians and buying control of the MSM.

    Also although the North of Ireland ended up with a heavy sprinkling of looney tune Protestants ( viz Paisley @ co ) there weren`t millions of batshit crazy Evangelicals in a foreign country supporting the ongoing colonisation to expedite the end of days.

    • amigo
      April 4, 2016, 10:06 am

      0ssinev, you might want to take a look the following article to see how the effects of the famine could have been greatly reduced had Great Britain not been run by whigs and the middle class who did not care about Irish people starving.

      It,s a 10 minute read .The beginning appears to excuse Britain,s role but keep reading.

      http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/victorians/famine_01.shtml

    • Mooser
      April 4, 2016, 2:33 pm

      “Most importantly though is the fact that unlike Palestine Ireland`s…/…due to poverty and most of all due to the Great Famine.”

      There’s some morbid symptoms for you, looks like terminal Anglophilia.

  8. Mayhem
    April 4, 2016, 8:52 am

    the PA is doing its best to frustrate these attacks

    What about a shred of evidence to substantiate this statement.

  9. Ossinev
    April 4, 2016, 10:38 am

    @amigo
    Thanks for the link. An interesting read. Your comments about the Whigs and the British middle class are correct and as you may know there always has been and will continue to be debates amongst the Irish themselves and outside scholars as to whether the British role in the Famine was in fact “genocide” The overall point which I was trying to make however is that IMO there was no planned and co-ordinated scheme by the British to force the Irish to leave Ireland through deliberately starving them,terrorising them, murdering them etc as with Zionism and JSIL vis a vis the native Palestinian population. The cause of the famine as you know was a catastrophic failure in the main staple potato crop. This also affected other countries in Europe but only to a “minor” extent compared with the disaster in Ireland. It is also arguable that the main “culprits” in the Famine and in the subsequent evictions and land appropriations were speculative British landlords whose single motivation was money as opposed to Biblical fairytales about having a God given right to Galway and Connemara.

  10. brent
    April 4, 2016, 12:59 pm

    I challenge someone to find a report by the Newshour or Washington Week in Review that actually enables the public to understand the nuances of the Palestine question. NPR has done a few, but remember Linda Gradstein had tenure there forever.

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