Friday, February 23, 2024

English Translation of 'The Ghassan Hage Scandal', Written in German by Samuli Schielke (Published in Zenith, 23/02/1957)

A renowned visiting researcher expresses his anger on social media about the Gaza war and its victims. The Max Planck Society throws him out the door and makes accusations of anti-Semitism that, upon closer inspection, are unfounded.

 

The Lebanese-Australian scientist Ghassan Hage, born in Beirut in 1957, is considered a luminary in his field; His 1998 book “White Nation – Fantasies of White Supremacy in a Multicultural Society” is one of the standard works in anthropology and ethnology. His latest book, “The Diasporic Condition,” published in 2021, is a milestone in the anthropology of migration. The German, publicly funded Max Planck Society was proud when it appointed Hage as a visiting scientist at its institute of the same name in Halle in 2023. As an intellectual, Hage regularly speaks out in interviews about the Middle East conflict and has long propagated the idea of a one-state solution for Palestinians and Jews.

 

Since October 7, 2023 and the subsequent outbreak of war in Gaza, he has been writing a lot on social media or on his blog on the Internet. Some of it is characterized by anger and lacks scientific sophistication. On the day of the Hamas attack on Israel - at a time when very few people had a clear picture of the true extent and brutality of the attack - he published a poem entitled "The endless Dead-End that will not end". It's about the cyclical violence in Gaza. In the end, it says that despite all the military superiority, the "resistance of the Palestinians" is endless - they can even "fly over walls." Critics saw this as a glorification of Hamas.

 

Hage likes to advocate provocative viewpoints that are not popular in either the West or the Arab world. On December 30, he wrote on X (formerly Twitter): “I have no doubt that Israel will cease to exist as a Jewish state. It will cease to exist by dissolving back into what it was as Palestine: a multi-religious space [...] with all its ups and downs.’’ With this sentence he speaks against Islamists and Arab nationalists as well as against Israel's Western supporters. According to a report in Welt am Sonntag published on February 5, 2024, the proof was provided: Hage was preaching hatred of Israel, anti-Semitism and trivializing the Holocaust because, for example, he called methods of Israeli warfare in Gaza "similar" to those of the National Socialists: for example, the systematic humiliation of the Palestinians in Gaza. It would be bad if a member of the Max Planck Society had spread hatred of Jews. But is it even true?

 

As someone who has been researching the Arab world for decades, I know the Arab version of anti-Semitism well. It is shaped by the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, but also uses thought patterns, themes and slogans from European and National Socialist Jew-hatred, disguised with religiously based resentment. In short: I know more about it than I would like.

 

Anyone who examines the Hage case and leaves the final word to expert analysis cannot confirm the accusation that Hage is an anti-Semitic and spreads anti-Semitic propaganda. His writings are not anti-Semitic. They do not denigrate Jews or Israelis as people or as a religious or ethnic community; neither are his statements. They are polarizing and polemical. They are directed primarily against Israeli politics and the idea of ethnic nationalism, which he sees as embodied in Israel's political project. Only those who equate criticism of Israel and the occupation with hatred of Jews can see anti-Semitism in this.

 

There is a lot of discussion and writing about this tendency in the media and politics. However, there was no anti-Semitism scandal at the Max Planck Institute. The “termination of the collaboration”, i.e. the dismissal of Hage by the Max Planck Society in response to criticism of his statements, is the actual scandal as it affects the freedom of science and expression of opinion.

 

In its short press release on February 7th about the Hage case, the Max Planck Society accused Hage of having “damaged science” with his statements. Loyalty to the employer is just as important as the legally guaranteed right to freedom of expression. The Society’s president ended the message with the memorable sentence: "Racism, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, discrimination, hatred and agitation have no place in the Max Planck Society." The Max Planck Society did not explain what exactly Hage had committed. On February 23, Hage announced that he would take legal action against his dismissal. So this question is still being discussed in court.

 

For anyone who wants to make their own judgment, I recommend his English essay “Gaza and the Coming Age of the Warrior” from November 2023, published online on Allegra Lab. There, Hage calls the terror against Israeli civilians by its name. He also discusses why many people outside Europe did not want to share the grief for the Israeli victims: this is perceived as exclusive and does not apply equally to the Palestinians who were killed in Gaza by Israel's "punitive expedition" (Hage) - with Europe's blessing and the western world. Of course, the same can be said about many Arab voices who ignored the suffering of Israelis. But wrong twice stays wrong. Hage is someone who feels horror and sadness for the suffering of friends and opponents. That's why we should listen to him when he demands the same from others.

 

Not only sadness, but also anger is permissible and understandable: about the cold-blooded killing of almost 1,200 Jewish Israelis as well as foreign tourists and guest workers. About the no less cold-blooded killing of over 29,000 Palestinians in Gaza by Israel's army. Which of these should scare us more? In war we are partial; we are more affected by the suffering of some people than that of others. That is difficult to change. But a minimum of decency requires that we do not forbid others to express their sadness and anger over the killing of so many people. Especially if we know Ghassan Hage's work: In it he doesn't just stop at anger - he thinks more often about the events and speaks into our conscience.

 

It is arguably legitimate to criticize or be angry with Hage's point of view, just as he criticizes and is angry with others. All of this is clearly within the scope of freedom of expression within the meaning of the Basic Law. And the media and science have to endure it accordingly. Hage supports the idea of the controversial movement “Boycott, Divest, Sanction” (BDS), which wants to force a policy change through a boycott against Israeli institutions. That's why he doesn't travel to Israel himself, but, as he himself explained, he works with Israeli colleagues. A group of Israeli scientists recently confirmed this in a public statement in support of him.

 

Hage has since commented on the allegations on his blog: "If some right-wing journalists who don't like my politics pick out my criticism of Israel from everything I've written and accuse me of anti-Semitism, I expect my "My employer knows about it or at least examined my file and defended me against such accusations." He still stands by his statements: He represents a political ideal "that I have always fought for with regard to Israel and Palestine. It is the ideal of a multi-religious society in which Christians, Muslims and Jews live together in this country.

 

The path towards a plural society also requires pluralistic discussions that give space to viewpoints that are initially irreconcilable. The Max Planck Society's decision is a sad statement about the future of Germany as a science location. For many colleagues at home and abroad, the debate within Germany, in which any discussion about the Middle East conflict can be cut off with accusations of anti-Semitism, is difficult to understand.

 

And why should they come to Germany if they also have to fear becoming the target of a politically motivated campaign? Especially when they are biographically linked to a region that is far removed from German sensitivities and culture of remembrance, but is directly affected by an armed conflict in which Israel plays a central role.

 

I, myself, emigrated to Germany because, in addition to good working conditions, I also found a more critical spirit and diversity here than in my Finnish homeland - a culture that I found to be free, but also small-minded and nationalistic. Today I wonder if I would make the same decision again. The Max Planck Society was given the choice: to continue the tradition of critical discourse and cosmopolitanism - or to wall itself in under pressure from some activists and the media and de facto censor one of its most renowned scientists. They chose the latter.

Friday, February 16, 2024

Reflections at the funeral of my assassinated self

It's Saturday 17 February morning here in Sydney. For those wondering, I did not leave Europe to Australia because of what happened in Germany. The trip was planned long ago. I’ve come back to Australia to welcome into the world my grandson Luca (my first grandchild). 

 

But it’s good to be with family, old friends and colleagues. I am over my jet lag. And I am over the 'stunned this is happening to me' phase of the Max Planck debacle. 

When I insisted on noisily being sacked rather than silently ‘parting ways’ with the institution, I knew that their cheap classification of me as antisemite would only reflect badly on them and on their reputation as a place of serious and unhindered academic research. The classification was a slap in the face of every institution that has ever employed me: Melbourne, Sydney, Western Sydney, Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Harvard, Paris, Toulouse, Beirut, and I won’t mention all the many places that have invited me, paid for me and housed me to give talks about my research, all these universities and all the students and academics who wanted to hear me, and believed I had something valuable to say, all were naïve little sods who never noticed what an evil antisemitic creature I am, until the president of the Max Planck Society and his lawyers came to finally reveal me for what I really am. 

 

For those same reasons laid out above, I was confident that most academics will see the classification ‘antisemite’ for the travesty that it is, and will rally behind me. Nonetheless, I wasn’t prepared for the scale of support I have received and am still receiving from around the world. It is all a bit overwhelming. I cannot begin to thank the many organisations, friends, colleagues, ex-students, people I know and have not met, and people I don’t know at all, who have sent me private messages, or made public statements to the Max Planck Society’s President and/or on social media. They have all made a difference. It is practically impossible for me to reply individually to all of them. But let me assure you: I've read all of them. I've read them all, not out of politeness, but, with an immense sense of gratitude, because they all lift my spirits and give me much needed strength. 

 

And I do not forget for one second that this is ultimately not about me at all. It is about a concerted effort by reactionary colonial forces around the world to normalise and legitimise the mass murder of thousands of people in Gaza in the name of defeating Hamas. ‘Defeating Hamas’ is elevated into some kind of higher transnational, and even transcendent, geopolitical reason. What makes this doubly important for us academics is that these forces have accompanied their assault on Gaza with an obscurantist assault against critical academic culture everywhere in the world. Using the state apparatuses when they are under their control, colonising and weaponizing third rate journalistic spaces that thrive on a culture of manufactured lies and innuendos, scaring mediocre managers of academic spaces that don’t know how to strike a balance between the interests of their sources of funding and the interests of the academics they are managing, they aim to eradicate the very conditions of possibility of what makes intellectual places specifically intellectual: the provision of the space, the time and the peace of mind to be able to ‘think hard’ about things. Thus, at this very moment, the struggle to stop the Gaza massacre from continuing to unfold and the struggle to be able to think hard about this massacre have become articulated - even if there is no imaginable symmetry between the suffering that results from the destruction of Gaza and the suffering that comes with the repression of the capacity to think critically about it. 

 

Reading the flow of nice things being said in my defence in the public domain I couldn’t help but joke to my partner and say: ‘it’s like one of those impossible fantasies examined in psychoanalysis, the fantasy of being alive and hovering over your funeral. The assassins are sitting there in satisfied silence, while the mourners dole out the tributes. But at least you get to hear all the nice things that people have to say about you at a time when they are disposed to say nice things about you.’ By the time I cracked the joke, a sense of dread and a more serious fear overcame me: and what if this was, really and truly, my funeral, I found myself thinking. Or at least the funeral of my Max Planck self. That part of myself that has just been subjected to an attempted symbolic murder by the president of the Max Planck Society? After all, not that long ago, if you read this piece carefully, I predicted the possibility of my assassination https://allegralaboratory.net/gaza-and-the-coming-age-of-the-warrior/. But I never thought the assassin will be the chief manager of the institution that employed me.

 

When I took my time to reflect on this fear, it became clear that this was not about the fear of death. I loved my Max Planck self and the people that sustained it, and I am sorry to see it wasted like this. But, luckily for me, and as with all beings, I have many other selves. There was another fear lurking in the background. A fear that I have always harboured: it was the fear that all those statements in my support were really forms of funeral orations. 

 

It was a fear that I have always harboured, one that I indeed touch upon in the linked text above: how can we academics, who, by definition, are part of a non-warring culture, respond to a warring culture that wants to harm us, without undermining our very mode of existence? Does not our discourse reflect, as a matter of fact, our pathetic lack of political power? And even if we had political power, how can our statement and our very analytical concepts be deployed in an aggressive way without them losing at least some of their analytical value? Aren’t we academics destined to only cop it, complain and make a statement without really being able to do much in the face of those who act against us?

 

While, as I said, I was raising questions that I have always raised and reflected upon, there was another part of me that felt unethical to react in such a way to the statements I have received. After all, most of those texts, and the statements that were made public, had in them the necessary fighting spirit demanded by the occasion (except maybe one email which, despite being well meaning and supportive, had ‘Condolences’ in the headline ). They were full of demands for re-instatement, apologies and the like. As I said, they energised me and pumped life into me. Thus, despite my rationalist defeatist inclinations those text demanded from me ethically and politically that I believe in them.

 

This is when the Holy Spirit intervened. It is true that we have witnessed the assassination of my Max Planck self. And it is true that we are in the midst of its funeral. But aren’t all these statements resisting and refusing to believe in this death rather than being resigned to it. Perhaps because Easter is approaching, I found myself digging into my neglected Catholic upbringing and saying to myself: maybe I should believe. Maybe my non-religious self should believe again in the possibility of resurrection! Is this not what these statements point to? Rather than a politics of defeat, a politics of resurrection?

 

The thought of this energised me. It made me more aggressive. I wanted to look at the President of the Max Planck Society, and rather than say ‘how dare you?’, say ‘accept that you have erred. Apologise for directing the words ‘antisemite’ at me, and reverse your decision!’ Do you want to be the president of the readers of a populist newspaper or do you want to be the president of an academic institution? If it is the latter, academics from all over the world are telling you: reverse your decision! If you don’t that is all what you will be: 

Thursday, February 8, 2024

Statement Regarding my sacking from the Max Planck Institute of Social Anthropology (February 9 2024)

On Wednesday 31st of January morning I woke up to an email from the right-wing newspaper Welt am Sonntag. They declared me to be ‘an activist for the BDS boycott movement for years’ which has never been the case. I take my job as an academic too seriously to have time to be an activist.

I was informed that the newspaper’s so-called ‘research team’ that ‘since the Hamas attack on Israel on October 7th, we have noticed that you have been making increasingly drastic statements towards the State of Israel’… It didn’t seem to occur to them that maybe this was because Israel was engaging in an on-going mass murder of Palestinians.

They had selected a few of my social media posts and wanted to know if I could understand if ‘critics classify your statements as antisemitic?’ I did not reply to this email. In my experience, the questions were a prelude to a fascistic ideological assassination job which was going to happen regardless of whether one says or does not say something.

Indeed, the article did happen. In it I was portrayed in conspiratorial terms as the henchman of some kind of BDS group. My job is to infiltrate academia. I had finished doing my job in Australia and was now set on infiltrating Germany. 

But before the article was published, I sent the above email to the Directors of MPI (Max Planck Institute of Social Anthropology in Halle) on the same morning I saw it. I was informed that a similar query was sent not only to them but also to the President of the Max Planck Society in Munich. I was also informed that the President has sent the email to the society’s lawyers. No one in Munich, lawyer or otherwise, contacted me or sought my opinion about the above. The next day, on Thursday morning, the directors of MPI informed me that there was a central decision requiring that MPI sever its relationship with me. The decision was based on the way antisemitism has come to be defined and institutionalised in Germany which has been analysed and critiqued by many.

 

For anyone who knows the German landscape at the moment, there is nothing surprising about this happening to me. Many people other than me have copped a variation on this same treatment. It does not make it less infuriating. 

 

Needless to say, I stand by everything I say in my social media. I have a political ideal that I have always struggled for regarding Israel/Palestine. It is the ideal of a multi-religious society made from Christians, Muslims and Jews living together on that land. My academic writings on that matter, and they are considerable, attests to the way I have always struggled for this ideal. I have criticised both Israelis and Palestinians who work against such a goal. If Israel has copped and continues to cop the biggest criticism it is because its colonial ethno-nationalist project is by far the biggest obstacle towards achieving such aim. This is also true of my social media posts. My declarations of these ideals is there in my social media. My critique of Palestinians who work against such an ideal is there in my social media. And so is my critique of Israel's ethno-nationalism. If some right-wing journalists who dislike my politics decide to pick from all what I have written my critiques of Israel and accuse me of antisemitism, I expect my employer to know or at least to investigate my record and defend me against such accusations. Believing in a multi-religious society and critiquing those who work against it is not antisemitism. I will not accept to be put in a defensive position where I have to justify myself for holding and working for such ideals. 

 

As importantly, I have more than 35 years of writing and teaching behind me, I have taught whole courses and parts of courses on Middle East anthropology throughout the world, to students with all kind of political persuasions: Never, EVER, have I had a student or an employer come to me and tell me that anything about my teaching has offended them or hurt them. On the contrary, the list of those who praise me and my work for making them think harder despite disagreeing with me is very long.

This is why, when the Max Planck President’s Office treated me as a liability that needs to be managed, and proposed that I go silently with a non-disclosure agreement, I refused and asked to be unilaterally sacked. I felt it was important that they produce a document where they state why they have chosen to sack me. (this is yet to be sent to me btw)

 

Two months into the Israeli bombardment of Gaza and its killing of thousands of Palestinians, my colleague Livnat Konopny-Decleve, from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, invited me to participate in an EASA (European Association of Social Anthropology)-organised debate on Violence and Postcolonialism. The thought came to me that if anthropologists have anything specific to add to the scholarly analysis of political violence, it probably had to do with trying to show that political violence is not something that is the same everywhere: there are different cultures of violence. Looking at a photo of naked Palestinian prisoners being led by Israeli soldiers in the ruins of Gaza, I began thinking about the relation between violence and humiliation. As I often do when I am writing, I posted the idea I had on Facebook:

The Israelis like to say that what they are doing in Gaza is like what the allies did in Dresden. But this is not true. The allies never tried to humiliate the people of Dresden. Israeli violence resembles far more Nazi antisemitic violence in this regard in its destructive power and desire to humiliate. It also resembles Nazi violence by its vulgarity.

 

I am taking my time contextualising this Facebook post as it is one of the posts that were deemed by the lawyers of the Max Planck Society to put me in contravention of the law in Germany: it is apparently antisemitic to engage in a comparison between Israel and Nazis. That is what I was told anyway. As far as I understand, this is, in a nutshell, what has put me at odds with Max Planck Society’s lawyers. What to me is a fair, intellectual critique of Israel, for them is ‘antisemitism according to the law in Germany’.

 

This is why, if Max Planck Society’s president limited himself to saying something like the above, I could have lived with it. I might not like the way the critique of Israel is conflated with antisemitism, and I find the German’s pseudo philosemitism self-serving, and at times racist, instrumentalised to racialize the Palestinian and more generally the Arab and Muslim community in Germany. But as a visitor there is a limit to the extent to which I feel entitled to critique this.

 

I cannot describe how saddened I am by this. I felt I was participating in and achieving some great things with some wonderful people at MPI. The fact that this intellectual world I was part of can be destroyed so easily and that the managers of academic institutions run scared and let it happen rather than defend the vitality of the academic space under their management is a real tragedy. 

 

Friday, January 5, 2024

Ghassan Abu-Sittah: The Practice of Surgery as an Anti-Genocidal Struggle


I have known Ghassan Abu-Sittah since his time in Beirut as the Head of Plastic Surgery at the American University of Beirut’s Hospital. When we were first introduced, and given the number of Lebanese women that walked around with a band aid on their nose, I was a victim of a stereotype that made me think that Plastic Surgery could only mean providing ‘nose-jobs’ and the like. I began wondering how it could possibly be that a surgeon from Gaza, who immediately comes across as well-read in radical political theory, and likes to frequent social scientists, spends his time aestheticizing the noses, ears and faces of Lebanese women. Then he started talking about his work and it didn’t take me long to become introduced to the world of limb replacements and reconstructive surgery. I learnt that he spent a lot of time in Gaza operating on people maimed in awful ways by Israeli soldiers and their ‘sophisticated’ weapons and ammunitions. I also learnt that part of his work in Beirut consisted in operating on Iraqi soldiers maimed by the many of Saddam Hussein’s wars and the American invasion of their country. 

We’ve stayed in touch on social media and we always come across each other when we are both in Beirut. He and his wife are both from Gaza and he has always worked in hospitals there amidst the many violent Israelis incursions into the territory over the years. So, it didn’t surprise me that he would immediately announce that he is going to Gaza when the Israelis started their retaliatory pounding of the strip in the aftermath of Hamas’ October 7 attacks. 

As the retaliatory pounding turned into the most savage, premeditatedly indiscriminate and brutal mass murder of civilians in the first quarter of the twenty first century, and as the Israeli bombing targeted the whole social, cultural and medical infrastructure of the strip, the bombing of hospitals became a particular cause of attention and outrage. In this environment, Ghassan and his social media descriptions of working conditions inside the hospitals and the kind of surgery he had to perform, especially as hospitals ran out of anaesthetics, started to widely circulate. He was increasingly being interviewed in the mainstream media and is now preparing to be an eyewitness at the ICC in the Hague.

Recently, we caught up over a cup of coffee at Café Younes in Hamra, Beirut. He had lost a lot of weight. He told me that he was suffering psychologically and physiologically in the aftermath of his Gaza experience. He also feels a sense of guilt for having left and would have liked to go back if it didn’t involve subjecting his family to all the fears and uncertainties that going back to Gaza would involve. Already his wife’s father has disappeared in Gaza more than a week ago, so she’s dealing with enough as it is. Insensitively perhaps given the above, I tried not to let all this come too much in the way of my curiosity. I wanted to hear from him some details of his everyday life as a surgeon working in the midst of destruction and mass murder. So, I was probably unbearably inquisitive, raising way too many issues. But he indulged me, and answered my questions. 

We often argue that thanks to social media, and to some heroic journalism, Gaza’s destruction and the killing of its people have been made available for all of us to witness more than any destructive murderous war before it. While this indeed gave us an unequal proximity to the destruction and the killing, it did not give us proximity to the way this destruction and killing is lived and negotiated by those experiencing it. My questions to Ghassan were particularly directed at getting some insights into the nature of surgery as a practice in such conditions. How do the medical staff perform their tasks under such circumstances, how do they relate to their own bodies being endangered, how do they relate to the horror that surrounded them and how do they relate to each other? I also quizzed him about what kind of solidarity, but also what kind of tensions arose between the staff in such circumstances.

At one point I raised the fact that in the public imagination surgery is often associated with ‘cool hands’. How was it possible to have ‘cool hands’ amidst the falling bombs, crumbling walls, depleted medical resources and malfunctioning technology? I asked. Ghassan said this was all nerve wrecking indeed. And particularly nerve wrecking was the flow of dead and injured people one encounters at every moment; sometimes in incidents happening before one’s very eyes. He kept referring to ‘the freshness of the wounds’ and the kind of interaction with the body of the injured that such ‘freshness’ required. Paradoxically, all this, he said, gave the performance of surgery itself a therapeutic function, so there was never a problem with your hands not serving you. 

As he explained, in the chaotic conditions of mass destruction and mass murder, there is a reversal between what, in a ‘normal’ (ie, peace-time) hospital space, is considered as ‘the space of tension,’ and what is considered as ‘the space of tranquility’. In those normal conditions the world outside the surgery room is the world of calm while the tension is happening in the operating room. This is reversed in Gaza. With the world outside the surgery room being extremely dangerous and tense, the performance of the familiar practices associated with surgery transform the operation for the surgeon into a kind of relaxing ritual: the person they are operating on becomes flesh rather than the daughter of x or the brother of y, and the technicality, predictability and ordered nature of surgery stands in opposition to the chaotic outside.

The above, ordered, a-personal, and ritualistic character of the surgery itself stood out particularly in comparison with the socially far more difficult pre-surgery decisions concerning triage: choosing who to prioritise for surgery among the many injured. This created a continuous ‘Sophie’s Choice’-type reality, Ghassan said. And it was made complicated by situations where medical staff would recognise people personally, he stressed. I initially thought that he was speaking of those difficult moment which many of us had already seen on social media where medical staff recognise close kin among the dead and injured. But this was not what he was referring to.

He said that while triage is usually done on the basis of a purely medical assessment of the viability of the operation: who needs it most urgently, and who is likely to survive it and benefit from it. In Gaza, and because the medical staff sometimes recognised who the injured people actually were, an added criteria was people’s knowledge of how many of someone’s family had already been murdered by the Israelis. Someone would say: we must try and prioritise saving this one, three of his or her siblings have already been killed and s/he is the only one left for his/her mother.

I found this extremely important, because it is a point that transformed the practice of surgery from a relation between a surgeon and the repairing of an individual body into a relation between the surgeon and the repairing of social relations. If the aim of genocidal violence is not only the destruction of individual bodies but the destruction of networks of social relations and their capacity to reproduce themselves, surgical practices, by aiming to save or repair family and communal rather than just individual bodies in the way it is described above acquire an important anti-genocidal dimension. Ghassan said a number of times that the environment created by the Israeli bombing kept bringing Achille Mbembe’s notion of ‘death world’ to his mind. It seems that in Gaza’s crumbling environment, the hospital gives new meaning to the notion of ‘life world’, highlighting it as a form of resistance to the expanding ‘death world’.

There is a particularly special and close relation between health practices and anti-colonialism in Palestine that is not as pronounced in other anti-colonial struggles, Ghassan tells me. Perhaps this is because of the intensely genocidal disposition of Israeli colonialism towards Palestinians. In places like South Africa, Apartheid was structured by the need for a healthy labour force and hospitals performed a useful colonial function in this regard. In Palestine, while the Israelis do make use of Palestinian labour, this usage is neither important nor crucial. There is no vested interest in a healthy Palestinian population, quite the contrary. As such, the exterminatory tendencies of Israeli colonialism can more easily run amuck as it were, especially when they are well-financed and well-armed as we have seen it happening over the years, and as we continue to see it happening in Gaza today. It makes all practices of preserving health anti-colonial by definition. The insistence of Israel on demolishing hospitals acquires a different dimension when seen from this perspective.

This puts us face to face with the other therapeutic dimension of what we do in the hospitals, Ghassan says. I told you about the therapeutic function of the surgical practice as a ritualised, ordered work of relating to the flesh of the injured. It can be seen as a therapy provided by the micro dimension of our practices. The therapy I am now referring positions us on a different scale. It comes from a relation to the macro socio-political dimension of our practices. It comes from the knowledge that what we are doing is part of an anti-colonial liberation struggle. Not in the darkest of moments, when the bombs are falling at their most intense, and when the flow of the dead and injured is at its most severe and when the morale is very low, do we lose sight of the horizon of liberation.

 

Sunday, November 26, 2023

We, lovers of Palestine, we are better than you

 We, lovers of Palestine, We are better than you.

 

We do not instrumentalise our holy scripture to rob people of their houses,

We are better than you.

 

We don’t pollute the noble history of victimhood of our ancestors, 

and use it to treat people like shit,

We are better than you.

 

We do not like thieving, exploiting, aggressive, fascistic, violent states,

We are better than you.

 

We who grieve the dead as human beings, not as superior ethno-national subjects, 

we are better than you.

 

We who do not feel pain at the sight of a suffering child according to where the child comes from, 

We are better than you.

 

We who have refused to master indifference in the face of injustice and genocide,

We are better than you.

 

We who do not love ourselves by hating others, 

we are better than you.

 

We who acknowledge that we can be better than we are and work on ourselves to be so,

We are better than you.

 

We who recognise that history is full of injustices that we need to acknowledge, 

and where possible rectify, 

rather than ignore, hide and deny, 

we are better than you.

 

We are

 

We are more loving, we are more caring, 

we are more sensitive, we are more receptive 

and we are more perceptive,

 

There are only two reasons why, we might die suffocating in your self-serving, hating, thieving, blind with narrow and short-sighted self-interest, world.

You are better financed and you are better armed.

 

But we are better than you.

Saturday, October 7, 2023

Israel-Palestine: The Endless Dead-End That Will Not End

When the Zionists occupied Palestine and the Palestinians resisted, the Zionists decided to teach them a lesson by upgrading their occupation and make it a hard occupation, and the self-congratulatory transnational consortium of colonialists acquiesced: Israel has the right to defend itself they said.

And when the Palestinians continued to resist, the Zionists decided to teach them a lesson by upgrading their occupation and make it a hard and unyielding occupation, and the self-congratulatory transnational consortium of colonialists acquiesced: Israel has the right to defend itself they said.

And when the Palestinians continued to resist, the Zionists decided to teach them a lesson by upgrading their occupation and make it a hard, unyielding, and strict occupation, and the self-congratulatory transnational consortium of colonialists acquiesced: Israel has the right to defend itself they said.


And when the Palestinians continued to resist, the Zionists decided to teach them a lesson by upgrading their occupation and make it a hard, unyielding, strict and brutal occupation, and the self-congratulatory transnational consortium of colonialists acquiesced: Israel has the right to defend itself they said.


And when the Palestinians continued to resist, the Zionists decided to teach them a lesson by upgrading their occupation and make it a hard, unyielding, strict, brutal and severe occupation, and the self-congratulatory transnational consortium of colonialists acquiesced: Israel has the right to defend itself they said.


And when the Palestinians continued to resist, the Zionists decided to teach them a lesson by upgrading their occupation and make it a hard, unyielding, strict, brutal, severe and unrelenting occupation, and the self-congratulatory transnational consortium of colonialists acquiesced: Israel has the right to defend itself they said.


And when the Palestinians continued to resist, the Zionists decided to teach them a lesson by upgrading their occupation and make it a hard, unyielding, strict, brutal, severe, unrelenting and ferocious occupation, and the self-congratulatory transnational consortium of colonialists acquiesced: Israel has the right to defend itself they said.


And when the Palestinians continued to resist, the Zionists decided to teach them a lesson by upgrading their occupation and make it a hard, unyielding, strict, brutal, severe, unrelenting, ferocious and callous occupation, and the self-congratulatory transnational consortium of colonialists acquiesced: Israel has the right to defend itself they said.


And when the Palestinians continued to resist, the Zionists decided to teach them a lesson by upgrading their occupation and make it a hard, unyielding, strict, brutal, severe, unrelenting, ferocious, callous and merciless occupation, and the self-congratulatory transnational consortium of colonialists acquiesced: Israel has the right to defend itself they said.


And when the Palestinians continued to resist, the Zionists decided to teach them a lesson by upgrading their occupation and make it a hard, unyielding, strict, brutal, severe, unrelenting, ferocious, callous, merciless and heartless occupation, and the self-congratulatory transnational consortium of colonialists acquiesced: Israel has the right to defend itself they said.


And when the Palestinians continued to resist, the Zionists decided to teach them a lesson by upgrading their occupation and make it a hard, unyielding, strict, brutal, severe, unrelenting, ferocious, callous, merciless, heartless and cruel occupation, and the self-congratulatory transnational consortium of colonialists acquiesced: Israel has the right to defend itself they said.


And when the Palestinians continued to resist, the Zionists decided to teach them a lesson by upgrading their occupation and make it a hard, unyielding, strict, brutal, severe, unrelenting, ferocious, callous, merciless, heartless, cruel and brutish occupation, and the self-congratulatory transnational consortium of colonialists acquiesced: Israel has the right to defend itself they said.


And when the Palestinians continued to resist, the Zionists decided to teach them a lesson by upgrading their occupation and make it a hard, unyielding, strict, brutal, severe, unrelenting, ferocious, callous, merciless, heartless, cruel, brutish and inhuman occupation, and the self-congratulatory transnational consortium of colonialists acquiesced: Israel has the right to defend itself they said.


And when the Palestinians continued to resist, the Zionists decided to teach them a lesson by upgrading their occupation and make it a hard, unyielding, strict, brutal, severe, unrelenting, ferocious, callous, merciless, heartless, cruel, brutish, inhuman and heinous occupation, and the self-congratulatory transnational consortium of colonialists acquiesced: Israel has the right to defend itself they said.


And when the Palestinians continued to resist, the Zionists decided to teach them a lesson by upgrading their occupation and make it a hard, unyielding, strict, brutal, severe, unrelenting, ferocious, callous, merciless, heartless, cruel, brutish, inhuman, heinous and hideous occupation, and the self-congratulatory transnational consortium of colonialists acquiesced: Israel has the right to defend itself they said.


And when the Palestinians continued to resist, the Zionists decided to teach them a lesson by upgrading their occupation and make it a hard, unyielding, strict, brutal, severe, unrelenting, ferocious, callous, merciless, heartless, cruel, brutish, inhuman, heinous, hideous and barbarous occupation, and the self-congratulatory transnational consortium of colonialists acquiesced: Israel has the right to defend itself they said.


And here we are today. And the Palestinians, like all colonised people, are still proving that their capacity to resist is endless. They don’t only dig tunnels. They can fly above walls.

And the Zionist response is to say: we’ll show you! No more Mr. Nice Guy! We’re going to further upgrade our occupation to at least monstrous, homicidal and diabolical.

And does anyone among the self-congratulatory transnational consortium of colonialists think of saying: Don’t you think we need to find a way out of this infernal cycle? 

No, for indeed, the self-congratulatory transnational consortium of colonialists is part of the infernal cycle, and all it has in it to do is to acquiesce and say: Israel has the right to defend itself 

 

Thursday, September 28, 2023

Letter to a Lebanese Relative About The Indigenous Voice to Parliament (with Arabic translation at the end)

 

An elderly Lebanese relative asked me over a family lunch if the Voice meant that Indigenous people will have the power to kick her out of her house. She is a lovely and loving person. I have known her since I have come to Australia and I love her too. She doesn’t do social media. She watches the news on commercial channels, and she has long conversations with other people about social issues. I have not seen her read anything other than the Daily Telegraph. I tried to imagine what I would write to her.

 

 

Dear L,

 

Australia is like many parts of the modern world, a country born out of Europeans taking over regions of the earth that were the homes of other non-European people. When you arrived in Australia in the 1960s and even when I arrived in the mid-1970s, we were not encouraged to think or even know about the fact that we are living on land that was illegally occupied and taken away from its indigenous inhabitants. The people who originally occupied this land, like many occupiers around the world thought that they got away with it. They thought that the people from whom they stole the land will simply disappear and no one will remember what happened. They created beautiful stories about the achievement of the settlers and what a great adventure it all was and left out that dark part of the settlement.

Today, it has become increasingly clear that the peoples whose lands were stolen have not disappeared. And they are more than willing to tell us all about that other repressed story of violence, theft and exploitation. At the same time, they are increasingly demanding various forms of economic reparations, moral acknowledgements, and various types of institutionalised political representation to make up for their stolen sovereignty. This is happening everywhere, and it is inevitable: we are not going to get away with living on stolen land without paying a price, without returning some kind of sovereignty to the Indigenous people who were the rightful owner of these lands. Please remember: this is inevitable. It is going to happen sooner or later. There will be conflictual ways in which it will happen and there will be nice ways in which it will happen. It can happen sooner or much later. But it is going to happen. It is going to happen not because the settlers have decided to be nice and give back the land. It is going to happen because Indigenous societies are witnessing a revival. Because their resistance is fierce. And because they are creating too many legal uncertainties with their demands for truth and justice. Enough uncertainties to make many businesses and institutions that are at the core of our society unable to plan for a sustainable future without some legal, moral, economic, and political settlement of the fallout from the original illegal occupation.

In Australia, we non-Indigenous people are very lucky. Indigenous Australians are one of the least resentful cultures in the world. Like all Indigenous people they have clear sense of what has happened to them and what they are owed. But they have a particularly gentle and non-vindictive way of going about getting some sense of just resolution to that matter. The Voice is one of these gentle, non-vindictive ways that the dominant leadership of the Indigenous people have proposed to deal with this situation. (There are dissenting minorities. There are always dissenting minorities).

Australian settlers on the other hand, that’s us, are largely divided into two groups (There are also dissenting minorities. There are always dissenting minorities). The first group continues to think that they will get away with doing nothing at all. They bury their head in the sand and refuse to see that there is an inevitable reckoning coming. They continue thinking that another coat of paint made from beautiful stories that simply ignore the history of land theft, murder and appropriation of sovereignty will work. That is the group made from members, or people hovering around, the Liberal Party and the No campaigners.

The second group are willing to look at the history of theft and exploitation. But they also know that what the dominant leadership of the Indigenous people are asking for in terms of political representation is less than the bare minimum of what Indigenous people ought to be offered politically and economically in atonement for the history of murder and the continuing theft of their land. This second group knows that if the Yes vote is to succeed, the non-Indigenous people who have settled this land whether as colonists or as immigrants are literally getting away with murder.

Nonetheless, and despite all this, to vote Yes is before all else to accept a gift. It is a very generous gift, some might say too generous, made to us non-Indigenous Australians by an as close as can be to representative leadership of the Indigenous Australian communities. It is the gift of a small step towards a possible new future where Indigenous people will have a voice in shaping the path that we can all take together in the making of a new Australia.

I know that you have a very high opinion of your own views and I know that you don’t like to be taken for a fool. It has been a dark century for us Lebanese as far as Lebanon is concerned. We have lost many material and immaterial things that are dear to us. But we have not lost our sense of decency: You don’t turn your back on someone who is offering you a gift from the bottom of their heart.

 

 

 

 

سألتني قريبة لبنانية مسنة أثناء مأدبة غداء عائلية عما إذا كان الصوت(the Voice) يعني أن السكان الأصليين سيكون لديهم القدرة على طردها من منزلها. إنها شخص جميل ومحب. لقد عرفتها منذ قدومي إلى أستراليا وأحبها أيضًا. إنها ليست على وسائل التواصل الاجتماعي. تشاهد الأخبار على القنوات التجارية، وتجري محادثات طويلة مع أشخاص آخرين حول القضايا الاجتماعية. لم أرها تقرأ أي شيء آخر غير الديلي تلغراف. حاولت أن أتخيل ماذا سأكتب لها.

 

 

عزيزتي إل،

 

تشبه أستراليا أجزاء كثيرة من العالم الحديث. فهي دولة ولدت  من رحم سيطرة الأوروبيين على مناطق من الأرض كانت موطنًا لأشخاص آخرين غير أوروبيين. عندما وصلتي أنتي إلى أستراليا في أوائل الستينيات، وحتى عندما وصلت أنا في منتصف السبعينيات، لم يشجعنا أحد على معرفة ألحقيقة والتفكير بأننا نعيش على أرض تم احتلالها بشكل غير قانوني وانتزعت من سكانها الأصليين. لقد اعتقد أوّل الذين احتلوا هذه الأرض، مثل العديد من المحتلين حول العالم، أنهم أفلتوا من العقاب. لقد ظنوا أن الأشخاص الذين سرقوا منهم الأرض سيختفون بكلّ بساطة، ولن يتذكر أحد ما حدث.ابتكروا قصصًا جميلة عن إنجازات المستوطنين ويا لها من مغامرة عظيمة، وتناسو ذلك الجزء القبيح من عملية ألإستيطان.

 


اليوم، أصبح من الواضح بشكل متزايد أن الشعوب التي سُرقت أراضيها منها لم تختف. وهي على استعداد تام لإخبارنا بكل شيء عن قصة العنف والسرقة والاستغلال المكبوتة. وفي الوقت نفسه، تطالب هذه الشعوب بشكل متزايد بتعويضات الاقتصادية، وأنواع مختلفة من التمثيل السياسي للتعويض عن سيادتهم المسروقة. يحدث هذا في كل مكان وهو أمر لا مفر منه: لن نفلت من العيش على أرض مسروقة دون دفع الثمن، دون إعادة نوع من السيادة إلى السكان الأصليين الذين كانوا المالك الشرعي لهذه الأراضي. يرجى تذكر: هذا أمر لا مفر منه. سوف يحدث ذلك عاجلاً أم آجلاً. ستكون هناك طرق عنيفة سيحدث بها، وستكون هناك طرق لطيفة سيحدث بها. يمكن أن يحدث عاجلا أو آجلا. ولكن ما لا مفرّ منه هو أنّه سيحدث. لن يحدث ذلك لأن المستوطنين قرروا أن يكونوا لطفاء ويعيدوا الأرض. سيحدث ذلك لأن مجتمعات السكان الأصليين تشهد انتعاشًا. لأن مقاومتهم شرسة. ولأنهم يخلقون الكثير من الشكوك القانونية بمطالبتهم بالحقيقة والعدالة. هناك ما يكفي من عدم اليقين لجعل العديد من الشركات والمؤسسات التي تقع في قلب مجتمعنا غير قادرة على التخطيط لمستقبل مستدام دون بعض التسوية القانونية والأخلاقية والاقتصادية والسياسية لتداعيات الاحتلال الأصلي غير القانوني.

في أستراليا، نحن ألسكّان الغير أصليين من مستعمرين ومستوطنين ومهاجرين محظوظون  جدًا. يعدّ السكان الأصليون الأستراليون من أقل الثقافات  المشاكسة في العالم،قلما تكن بالبغض نحو من أذاهم في الماضي. مثل جميع السكان الأصليين، لديهم إحساس واضح بما حدث لهم وما يستحقونه. لكن لديهم طريقة لطيفة وغير انتقامية في الحصول على نوع من الحل العادل لهذه المسألة. يعد الصوت (the voice)من هذه الطرق اللطيفة وغير الانتقامية التي اقترحتها قياداة السكان الأصليين للتعامل مع هذا الموقف. (هناك أقليات معارضة. هناك دائما أقليات معارضة).

 

من ناحية أخرى، ينقسم المستوطنون الأستراليون، و نحن منهم، إلى مجموعتين إلى حد كبير (هناك أيضًا أقليات معارضة. هناك دائمًا أقليات معارضة). تستمر المجموعة الأولى في الاعتقاد بأنهم سوف يفلتون من عدم القيام بأي شيء على الإطلاق. إنهم يدفنون رؤوسهم في الرمال ويرفضون أن يروا أن هناك حسابًا قادمًا لا مفر منه. ويواصلون التفكير في أن طبقة أخرى من الطلاء مصنوعة من قصص جميلة تتجاهل ببساطة تاريخ سرقة الأراضي والقتل والاستيلاء على السيادة ستنجح. هذه هي المجموعة المكونة من أعضاء، أو أشخاص يحومون حول حزب الليبرلز ونشطاء حملة "لا".

المجموعة الثانية على استعداد للنظر في تاريخ السرقة والاستغلال. لكنهم يعلمون أيضًا أن ما تطلبه قياداة السكان الأصليين من حيث التمثيل السياسي هو أقل من الحد الأدنى مما يجب تقديمه للسكان الأصليين سياسيًا واقتصاديًا للتكفير عن تاريخ القتل والسرقة المستمرة للممتلكات. كما تعرف هذه المجموعة الثانية أنه إذا كان للتصويت بنعم أن ينجح، فنحن السكان الغير الأصليين الذين استوطنوا هذه الأرض، سواء كمستعمرين أو كمهاجرين، سوف نتجنّب دفع الثمن الذي علينا حقّاً أن ندفعه.

ومع ذلك، ورغم كل هذا، فإن التصويت بنعم هو قبل كل شيء قبول هِبَة سخية للغاية، وقد يقول البعض أنها سخية قدمت لنا نحن الأستراليين الغير أصليين المجتمعات الأسترالية الأصلية. إنها هبة تتمثل في خطوة صغيرة نحو مستقبل جديد محتمل حيث سيكون للسكان الأصليين صوت في تشكيل المسار الذي يمكننا جميعًا أن نسلكه معًا في صنع أستراليا الجديدة.

أعلم أن لديك رأيًا عاليًا جدًا في آرائك وأعلم أنك لا تحب أن يُنظر إليك على أنك أحمق.لقد كان القرن الحادي و العشرين حتى اليوم قرناً مظلماً بالنسبة لنا كلبنانيين بما يخصّ لبنان. لقد فقدنا أشياء كثيرة عزيزة علينا، أشياء مادية وغير مادية. لكننا لم و لا يجب ان نفقد إحساسنا باللياقة: نحن لا ندير ظهرنا لشخص يقدم لنا هدية من أعماق من أعماق قلبه