Creating people's geographies
ADDED: Thoughtful comments from friends and response from Norman, with thanks
I have a bone to pick with Norman Finkelstein, whose scholarship and stances in the past I have expressly supported. He comes out swinging in an interview on Lebanese TV last month, and I can only agree with the first half of the interview. While no doubt the Israeli neocons who own MEMRI will latch on to and inflate statements such as ‘Israel has to suffer a defeat’, I was more bemused with his expression of singular values in “there is no alternative” to military resistance.
To Norman: While it has its place, there IS an alternative, many of them, there is no single strategy. South Africa didn’t “have” to suffer a military defeat before it ended its belligerence, the defeat in Vietnam did not do much to dent US militarism. It is a combination of diplomacy and military strategies, Norman, and you are quite wrong that the Arab people — not their governments — have no self-respect. The dignity I have encountered speaks volumes to me personally.
Your expression of values and your preference for what you describe as the chosen Jewish strategy: “never to forgive, never to forget” is not always the right attitude. Violence tends to beget more violence. You invoke a false cliched binary of choosing either to die on one’s feet or to live on one’s knees: inspired as a catchcry, not really a strategy.
I think that is a totalistic mindset that straitjackets Arabs and Lebanese, it does not liberate them. Military resistance is only half the equation, it has to be accompanied with people-to-people ties, second- and third-track diplomacy, cultural and civil society exchanges, and other grassroots and cultural and social changes. Will a military defeat by Israel stop a significant number of Israelis despising Arabs and actively discriminating against them, which crucially is what public polls provide as a mandate for war? I don’t think so. Poll after poll tells us that these types of attitudes are not only prevalent, they are increasing.
Your wholly militaristic strategy is misguided, Norman. How you can discount effective lobbying, given the behemoth AIPAC and the Likud Lobby in the US and its undue influence, is perplexing. These strategies should be pursued on all fronts in tandem, not simply ‘military resistance’. ‘Never to forgive, never to forget’ is the very ‘Jewish’ attitude that spawns Israeli government intransigence and cynical exploitation of perpetual victimhood, Norman, the very type you have so well documented in the past. Either strategy on its own is naive and one-dimensional, and I don’t buy your views on strategy as presented as being the only way. Castigate Arab and the Lebanese governments by all means, express solidarity with Hezbollah (for whom, with you, I also wholeheartedly support the right to resist Israeli aggression), but yours is a view that is only the flipside of the appeasement coin, and I proffer my dissent.
“No one else in our movement at Norman’s stature has come out with such a clear acceptance of the right to violent resistance. … I’m the type who follows anyone who picks up the flag and runs toward the lines. He’s either a saint or a bloody fool, but we can’t let him go alone. You are after a resolution. Norman has accepted that resolution is impossible until Israel is defeated (and the U.S.) because Israel will continue to provoke war forever unless their ideology is shown to be abhorrent.” [from Dean]
“I would agree with much of what you say in terms of multiple strategies being helpful. Although I don’t think Washington has Lebanese interests at its heart and diplomacy will not prevent further conflict (but still an influence and and ear could have some affect).
I do think Israel is looking to attack Lebanon once again and that its useful to remind people that the US bombed them (through Israel) and will support Israel when it bombs them again. The only way out of this situation is to submit to Israel/US. Obviously Lebanese in the south are not going to submit to Israel so theres definitely another war coming. In which case I found Norman Finklestein’s interview a refreshing wake up call to remind Lebanese who their real enemy is (who is planning the next war). The few Lebanese I know are horribly affected by war and as a survival mechanism seem to forget about it and ignore it. They especially like to ignore their biggest threat Israel because they feel powerless in the face of it eg they blame the civil war on Palestinian refugees rather than Israel for creating the refugees. I think his stark choices, bleak future and frankness are a good shake that they need. Lebanon should be preparing for resistance (of all forms) not pulling itself apart.
I felt when he said there was no other option than military resistance it was in reference to an Israeli military campaign against Lebanon. I didn’t think he meant it was the only tactic you should use – its just unfortunately a necessary component.
I’ve more or less said the exact things as norman to my Lebanese friends but without the fury behind my words. I understand that they want peace at all costs and are very hurt and damaged. I don’t like to push on them what I think – I haven’t lived there. Although I do feel part Lebanese now :D I have too many connections there not to be involved.
Ultimately I wasn’t so sure his polemic should be taken literally – but was a strategy to give Lebanon a rather a big wake up call.
I do think many Lebanese are too sycophantic to Washington considering they destroyed the country. Reminds me of my trip to Japan where all the cool kids were wearing t shirts that said “US airforce” even though the same airforce nuked them twice and committed countless other massacres from the air. I just can’t understand it.” [from Dave]
The actual interview was an hour long. The excerpt accurately reflects my opinions but not the reasoning behind them. In life we sometimes have only stark alternatives. Hence, the famous union song, “Which side are you on?” This talk of “binaries” is often an excuse for doing nothing.
I should have replied at greater length but I just don’t have the time right now. However, for the record, I am not a big believer in forgiveness. In my opinion it breeds moral irresponsibility: people should be held accountable for their actions and, anyhow, no one can forgive for the dead. My late parents would NEVER forgive the murderers of their families and I would NEVER forgive what was done to my parents. It’s for those who ACTUALLY SUFFERED to decide whether or not to forgive. Of course, these questions don’t even arise in the Lebanese case. It’s the most craven moral cowardice and opportunism to welcome the murderers of Lebanon. And let’s be clear: it’s those who suffered LEAST who now claim the NECESSITY of welcoming the Americans. Israel was very careful only to bomb the poor Muslims. The rich parts of Beirut, e.g., were untouched by the war, although of course the destruction of infrastructure hurt everyone.