This week in English professor Kandice Chuh’s class “Black, Brown, Yellow: On Ways of Being and Knowing,” we’re reading, among other texts, Hamid Dabashi’s Brown Skin, White Masks (Pluto Press, 2011), in which, among other interventions, he critiques Arab and Muslim “comprador intellectuals” as the opposite of the Saidian exilic intellectual, or, that is, an intellectual or knowledge producer who serves the state and empire rather than contesting them.
Indeed, he quotes Joseph Massad—whose academic freedom was violated when he became the subject of a well-known anti-Palestinian repression campaign several years back at Columbia—on the Palestinian version of this figure as such:
Palestinian intellectuals who previously opposed the occupation, PLO concessions, and US hegemony, but now support, wittingly or unwittingly, all three….Palestinian intellectuals, attuned to the exigencies of political power and the benefits that could accrue to them from it, traded in their national liberation goals for pro-Western pragmatism. (42-43)
Ghaith Al-Omari of the American Task Force on Palestine, who’s having a “conversation” with an adviser to Secretary of State John Kerry tomorrow (Monday, October 20th), seems very much to fit this description. Not only has he worked closely with the accommodationist Palestinian Authority—the successor to the PLO—but his employer is principally committed to the “United States national interest” over that of Palestine or Israel, per the American Task Force on Palestine’s mission statement.
In other words, the conversation that’s happening tomorrow is about U.S. power, and upholding it, and therefore will have very little to say about the prospects of achieving “peace”—that is, an end to the occupation and colonization of Palestine and related issues—especially given that the U.S. funds Israel $3 billion annually. Indeed, nine groups, a majority of them Jewish-identified, called for an end to this funding, among other demands, in a full-page ad in the New York Times last month, about which I previously posted.
Finally, a note about conversations—that is, “dialogue”—re Palestine and Israel. Dialogue implies that the two sides have equal status, and, further, that the Israeli occupation and colonization of Palestine is normal, both of which are untrue. To this end, I want to share two passages about so-called “normalization” from the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel’s site:
For Palestinians in the occupied West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and Gaza, any project with Israelis that is not based on a resistance framework serves to normalize relations. We define this resistance framework as one that is based on recognition of the fundamental rights of the Palestinian people and on the commitment to resist, in diverse ways, all forms of oppression against Palestinians, including but not limited to, ending the occupation, establishing full and equal rights for Palestinian citizens of Israel, and promoting and advocating for the right of return for Palestinian refugees – this may aptly be called a posture of ‘co-resistance’ . Doing otherwise allows for everyday, ordinary relations to exist alongside and independent of the continuous crimes being committed by Israel against the Palestinian people. This feeds complacency and gives the false and harmful impression of normalcy in a patently abnormal situation of colonial oppression.
‘[D]ialogue’ and engagement are often presented as alternatives to boycott. Dialogue, if it occurs outside the resistance framework that we have outlined, becomes dialogue for the sake of dialogue, which is a form of normalization that hinders the struggle to end injustice. Dialogue, ‘healing,’ and ‘reconciliation’ processes that do not aim to end oppression, regardless of the intentions behind them, serve to privilege oppressive co-existence at the cost of co-resistance, for they presume the possibility of coexistence before the realization of justice. The example of South Africa elucidates this point perfectly, where reconciliation, dialogue and forgiveness came after the end of apartheid, not before, regardless of the legitimate questions raised regarding the still existing conditions of what some have called ‘economic apartheid.’
The BDS resolution before the Grad Center’s Doctoral Students’ Council will be taken up again this coming Friday. I’m hoping GC students, in particular DSC reps, will be able to see past the fog of the opposition.