Who’s the Orientalist?
The extent of some people’s arrogance, ignorance and shamelessness can indeed be revolting sometimes. That’s what I thought when I read the recent Badger article entitled ‘Balance it out!’. I would like to think that its author is simply naïve; only on that basis would I be prepared to excuse the things that were so erroneously alleged in that article.
Let’s take them one by one. “Hamas of course believe a military resistance to be the only solution”. Really? What about the offer of a long-term truce, known as Hudna in Arabic, made to Israel? Maybe the author wasn’t aware of this, in which case it is better to be informed about the issues he is publicly talking about. But the worse is what follows: “for Hamas a state of war is a state of victory and every dead child a martyr”. This suggests that Hamas are enjoying the war and that they are responsible for the dead Palestinians. This is a plain insult to the Palestinians. They have been forcibly ousted of their homes, forced to live in refugee camps for sixty years and been massacred at various occasions. Do you think they chose it? And what about the fact that every time Israel commits further crimes, support for Hamas gets stronger and support for Fatah dwindles?
“The Student Occupation was in solidarity with Hamas. Stop the War Coalition are in solidarity with Hamas, and have been so for years”. I must have been under some sort of powerful hallucinogenic substance all this time if I didn’t realize this. I personally, together with another member of Stop the War Coalition (StWC) – Syed Bokhari – argued against those who suggested at the meeting which triggered the occupation that participating entailed supporting Hamas, although we both support the organisation in question. We argued that the prerequisite for participating was support for the Palestinians around the demand “End the siege of Gaza now, stop the bombing immediately” and nothing more. This is what formed the basis of the occupation from beginning to end. Now I also said that we both support Hamas and both are members of StWC. This doesn’t mean that StWC’s position is our own. StWC’s position is an all-encompassing slogan of “Freedom for Palestine”, and that’s why members of StWC, including on campus, don’t support Hamas and that StWC material doesn’t advocate support for Hamas.
The author certainly wasn’t at the meeting either, because he alleges that the speaker from StWC (who is a woman by the way, not a “girl”; for someone who so much cares about women’s role in Middle-Eastern society, it is curious that he can’t see how what he wrote is sexist) called for “solidarity with Hamas, Hezbollah, Syria and Iran”. Needless to say this never happened. The author also alleges that women have no voice in states run or that would be run by Hamas, Hezbollah, Syria or Iran. Syria’s vice-president is a woman, as well as its General-Prosecutor. In the Palestinian parliament six women have been elected on the Hamas ticket, and some of them state openly that women’s situation needs to be improved. In Iran, the majority of university students are women and a number of them hold seats in parliament and in other important government bodies. None of this means there is no sexism in the Middle-East. But would the author allege there is no sexism in the West?
The author says that putting up pictures of dead Palestinians on the walls of A2 was ”Hamas tactics”. The reason the occupiers decided to put these pictures on the walls was this: it was felt that not enough information about the horrors committed by Israel in Gaza was reported in the media. There was a debate at the occupation about this and people understood that some students found the pictures aggressive, but it was also felt that it was more important to keep them up. We did balance it out, and we decided to keep them up. I understand the criticisms made about this choice, and I wrote in an earlier article that I welcomed constructive criticism.
It also seems, according to the author, that speaking against the Egyptian or Saudi regimes – and I’ve done this myself and will do it again every time the issue comes up – is “following the Hamas argument”. The unfortunate thing, both for the author’s argument and the Arab masses, is that Hamas doesn’t speak of the Egyptian and Saudi regimes as pawns of American Imperialism. Hamas is trying to use any leverage it has on these regimes to secure a brokered truce with Israel under US auspices. That’s why it is participating at the moment in talks in Cairo hosted by the Egyptians together with Fatah with the aim of forming a government of national unity. I could write about the role of these regimes in the region and the way the “Arab street” (the region’s populations as they are usually called) regards them but space doesn’t allow this.
The most revolting and, indeed, “orientalist” argument is that “Palestinians are as much the victims of Hamas as they are of Israel”. Think whatever you want of Hamas but don’t insult the Palestinian people’s intelligence. Polls have shown that more than 60% of them support the Hamas government. Does anyone honestly think that Palestinians are that stupid to support an organisation which oppresses them? The author might not like this – it is a bit embarrassing to allege that one supports the Palestinian cause but not the Palestinian people’s choices – but it is the reality.
Two last points. John Molyneux from Portsmouth spoke at the Sussex occupation and asked students to sign a petition against his arrest for having organized a demonstration in support of Gaza. The author missed this point in his article. How do John’s “own political gains” come into this? If you occupy a lecture theatre in support of Palestine, then you surely support others who demonstrate for the same cause.
“Those who refused to sign the Occupation petition, were seen as war sympathizers”. This is a ruthless lie. Nowhere was such an opinion voiced at any given point in time, before, during or after the occupation. The author should apologise to all the members of the occupation for this statement and withdraw it unconditionally.
It seems to me clear who is the Orientalist and who lacks knowledge of Middle-Eastern politics. I can’t help wondering, however, as to the motives of the author of the article in question. Why such a determination to discredit the occupation, and worse still, with recourse to such shameless lies? And why such determination to discredit StWC? Is it that some people don’t want the anti-war movement to develop on this campus? Then tell us why, and let’s debate it openly. Don’t launch a libel campaign.