Wednesday, June 20, 2007

A choice of words..

While commuting to work this morning, I was reading an article in the Economist on the situation in Gaza between Hamas and Fatah. As most articles written on the matter lately, they have been tinged with a sorrowful 'Whither to now Palestine' attitude. Apart from the fact I have reservations about whether I should feel sad as to what is happening (I don't) I have a few observations which might be useful to anybody else reading Western media. The Economist presents Hamas as 'failing to meet the conditions' set by the 'great outside powers'.

We hear this often, but why do we (myself included) uncritically accept the framework of the argument. 'Failing to meet the conditions' is when somebody eager for something is expected to jump through all sorts of loops to receive something from another: A student in school 'fails to meet the conditions' necessary for a pass; An immigrant 'fails to meet the conditions' for a visa; so on and so forth, you get the picture. Now, Hamas did not 'fail to meet the conditions' of anybody, it refused the demands of the 'International Community' (otherwise known as the West), there is a crucial difference.

I don't necessarily agree with Hamas' ideology or methods, but the reason I bring this up is because this framework of description of events is presented often in news and analysis and can misguide the layperson reading them in the Western world to think they come from countries which are somehow superior to those they are dealing with, a throwback to the days of Empire? That I don't know. We see the same framework with Iran, Syria and Hezbullah amongst others. These actors always seem to 'fail' to meet 'requirements', 'conditions', 'criteria' etc etc. The language instantly tells you who is setting the conditions and who these are 'set' upon. This logic is flawed and unacceptable. When somebody you don't like wants to make you do something and you refuse, you do not 'fail to comply'. You refuse and stand your ground, 'go ahead, make my day' basically. The same applies with what is happening in the Middle East at the moment.

These 'outside powers' the Economist is referring to have helped create Israel, arm it and continue to fund and support some of the most corrupt regimes in the region (Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia), yet these countries are labelled with terms which make them softer for the reader, 'secular', 'moderate' etc. In stark contrast, actors opposed to the 'international community' (remember, this stands for the West) are portrayed as 'hardline', 'Islamist' , 'authoritarian' etc etc, even though in terms of human rights abuses and governance, they are no better than the so called 'moderate' countries. However, the criteria for judgement is never about the benevolence and effectiveness of government or human rights, it is always the position of these countries with regards to the 'international community' and in particular Israel, which is the basis for judgements. Under the illusion of objectivity, you are presented with a framework which, if accepted, can only lead you to one viewpoint.

Finally, the token bogeyman. The article also included a fleeting implication that a Gaza under Hamas would allow al Qaeda another fertile ground, " If the Islamists of Hamas win this round, the spectre will loom of a failed statelet where al Qaeda," etc etc. No mention is made of the fact that the 'statelet' might fail precisely because the 'international community' will blockade and starve it while funding and arming the pro-Israel Abbas (remember he is a moderate, never mind about corrupt). I assume that Hamas in such a scenario would again 'fail' to meet the stringent 'requirements' of these countries and so it, as well as the people who elected it, have only themselves to blame. That is the picture we can expect to be presented with at some stage if not already.



Anonymous said...

no need to play coy, wassim. these 'requirements' you cannot seem to figure out are in plain sight in hamas' founding charter:
article 13 expressly states hamas' refusal to participate in any kind of peace process, and, that jihad is the only method to liberate palestine.
you seem to be quite satisfied with this attitude of 'go ahead, make my day.'
with no effort toward accommodation of any sort, why should anyone be willing to engage them at all?

Wassim said...

I think you confuse the matter slightly. You see, in the eyes of the Palestinian people and the entire Arab world, it is the West which must justify why it continues to support Israel and insist on it's right to exist as a Zionist entity. There is no question that Palestine must be liberated and that is the starting point for any 'accomodation' you refer to. I firmly believe the only solution for this problem is the complete dismantlement of the Zionist state apparatus, the right of return and reimbursement of the Palestinian people for their suffering, preferrably funded by the billions of dollars America miraculously seems able to donate to Israel. A democratic state for all inhabitants is justice, not a sham two state solution based on an ethnically or religiously exclusive society.

Anonymous said...

and this is precisely the problem with the recalcitrant view of the arab world: the west has no need to justify anything - it controls the world's politics and economy. ultimately, it's either get with the program, or remain an intellectual, cultural, and economic backwater.
good luck with your firm beliefs, wassim. your naivete would be funny if it weren't so sad. justice isn't a reality in the middle east, nor in the rest of the world, for that matter.