Palestine As A Foil For People’s Unconnected Dreams
Thousands of people recently marched in London to commemorate Quds Day, an annual day of solidarity with the Palestinian
people that emanated from Tehran some 26 years ago.
I neither wish to contend nor corroborate the sincerity of the call, made by Ayatollah Khomeini, in a time when the
Palestinian people endure, unaided, the unbearable brunt of the Israeli occupation, international isolation and its
subsequent economic boycott, and the burden of their leaderships’ own folly, that of factionalism and lack of political
However, the scene in London was too surreal, and brought into question the usefulness of such displays of solidarity
with the Palestinians. As Hezbollah and Iranian flags and banners wavered in the cold London breeze, and posters of
Iranian leaders sprung everywhere, I failed to spot one Palestinian flag, one positive message, one helpful chant. It
was only when the black clad Neturei Karta rabbis made their entrance that the Palestinian flag was introduced into the
I grew partially irritated and utterly confused as marchers made their way through the city, eventually descending on
the gates of the American embassy, where a small stage and a few microphones awaited fiery speakers; then, the cries of
“down with the USA” and “we are all Hezbollah” rang across the city, as American security officers took position,
preparing for what could become a showdown with the seemingly intoxicated protesters.
Befuddled at the spectacle, its lack of any true meaning or relevance to Palestine at all, at the unhappy, or alarmed
faces of the passersby and the usefulness of affiliating Palestine with such militancy, and more, I retreated. Finding
my way back to my apartment with utter difficulty through the ever expanding city, I contemplated: Have I right to
question the motive of the organizers, however misguided their presentation might be? But is it not immoral to exploit
the cause of Palestine as that of inclusive justice, as opposed to theocratic exclusiveness, for self-exultation and
But the debate can indeed be stretched much further into another, neglected by an utterly pertinent one, that of
Palestine as a pressing tragedy seeking urgent remedy versus that of an postponed historic grievance without any
realistic diameters, relevance to the real world, or needless, to say, a real plan of action.
Regardless of its many flaws and imperfections, no other national struggle in the world has assimilated itself, or has
been inadvertently assimilated, to symbolize so many things to so many different people, as has the Palestinian
struggle. And yet, despite the intricate layers of sense and understanding that have sought to encapsulate the
Palestinian struggle, Palestine itself lingers in the world’s consciousness merely as a symbol.
Palestine is the last domicile for those seeking deliverance, and the ultimate place next to heaven for those in quest
of salvation. There, it has been written that the tireless hunt for spiritual quintessence shall come to an end; the
armies shall meet there, once more; they shall fight in the name of God, an Armageddon not like any other, of which
victory has already been promised to the righteous.
Palestine has also been a rallying cry for the dispossessed and for the aspiring underdog. Its letters have been
inscribed in blood on prison walls throughout Israel and the Arab world as a promise of victory or as a lamentation of
When anti-globalization activists take on neo-imperialist institutions, they raise a Palestinian flag, and when
Venezuela’s poor brought Hugo Chavez back to power in April 2002, a Palestinian flag also wavered in the wind.
Palestine also had its fair share of political exploitation. Former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein fought his Iranian
foes, in some of the cruelest and most costly wars, in the name of Palestine, and in the name of Palestine Iran fought
back. Arab nations have long hidden behind liberation-of-Palestine slogans to excuse their ineptitude and to rationalize
And in the United States, Palestine takes on a plethora of unique and often deadly meanings. It’s a prophecy waiting to
be fulfilled and a market for politicians wishing to sell their will to the highest bidder. It’s a major and everlasting
news headline that, despite its ominous presence, seems to teach and evoke nothing except the intentional
misrepresentation of the facts.
As for Palestine the reality — the suffering, the loss, the hopelessness and hurt, the refugee camps, the checkpoints,
the expanding settlements, the encroaching Israeli wall, the ruined lives, the packed prisons, the anger and prevailing
sense of betrayal, the desperation and human bombs, the shattered economy, the bulldozed orchards, the more than 50
years-long fear of the future — it seems to be the least relevant point.
Symbolic Palestine — Palestine the dream — has for long hijacked Palestine the reality. Thus when Palestine is
discussed, examined and scrutinized, the frame of reference is hardly the one invoked when any other similar conflict is
discussed. Its resolution is rarely seen pertinent to international law or human rights edicts and is barely understood
— as it should be — in terms of power and strategy. Rather it’s a subject of flared imaginations, religious fantasy and
One cannot and must not undermine the efforts of the inspiring activists whose awareness of the Palestinian reality on
the ground is unmatched and whose sincere efforts to achieve peace with justice in Palestine translate to more than a
few heart-rending words and phrases, but steady action and unequaled readiness to labor and even sacrifice for their
beliefs. However, it’s this wrestle between the real as opposed to figurative and abstract awareness that shall define
the course of action that is likely to follow.
If Palestine continues to be understood — or misunderstood — outside its proper frame as a national struggle for rights
within the appropriately corresponding international context, then little can be expected from any attempts to remedy
It is time to distance Palestine from further interpretations and understand it as it is. Otherwise, Palestine, its
people and conflict shall be confined to the ever-augmented edifices of rhetoric with no connection to the real
aspirations of a real people with real demands, awaiting justice and a moment of peace.
-Excerpts of this article appeared in Ramzy Baroud’s latest book: The Second Palestinian Intifada: A Chronicle of a
People’s Struggle (Pluto Press, London), available on Amazon.com, Plutobooks.com and many bookshops.