Politics

12.10.12

Meshal's Speech and the Progressive Conundrum

It's just sad and depressing to read stuff like this, from yesterday's Times, about the big speech by Hamas leader Khaled Meshal:

Speaking before tens of thousands of supporters to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the founding of Hamas, Mr. Meshal said the Jewish state would be wiped away through “resistance,” or military action. “The state will come from resistance, not negotiation,” he said. “Liberation first, then statehood.”

His voice rising to a shout, Mr. Meshal said: “Palestine is ours from the river to the sea and from the south to the north. There will be no concession on any inch of the land.” He vowed that all Palestinian refugees and their descendants would one day return to their original homes in what is now Israel.

“We will never recognize the legitimacy of the Israeli occupation, and therefore there is no legitimacy for Israel, no matter how long it will take,” he said. “We will free Jerusalem inch by inch, stone by stone. Israel has no right to be in Jerusalem.” He also promised Palestinian prisoners held in Israel that they would be freed using the same methods that had worked in the past — the kidnapping of Israelis and Israeli soldiers, like Gilad Shalit, who was released last year in a prisoner exchange after five years as a hostage.

There was more, including the fact that the speech was delivered in front of a giant replica of the new type of Hamas rocket that can reach Tel Aviv.

The occupation is beyond terrible, beyond indefensible. The blockade makes things even worse. Netanyahu's current position (and his past positions of course--he once ordered Meshal's assassination) seems intentionally designed to make Israel's last friends in the world abandon it. All that is understood.

But I ask you how any progressive person can fully support a movement like Meshal's. Granted, the world doesn't always offer us clean choices. We must prioritize, and the clear priority here is opposing occupation and working to end it.

But secular liberal people must also have the fortitude to demand that leaders of the occupied move away from destructive positions like Meshal's, which just make for a downward spiral to nowhere.Too often in the history of the postwar era, the left in the developed world has let its hatred of imperialism and occupation prevent it from seeing and denouncing the problems within the movements around the world it has supported.

An attitude such as Meshal's, if extended to its logical end point, assures virtually certain dismemberment of his movement and people, because if a regional war really is precipitated, the reality is that United States would come in on Israel's side and that would be that. Stuck as the losers in all this, as I've said before, the Palestinian people, so horribly disserved by such "leadership."

UPDATE: The comment below by Sudders comparing this situation to the old Northern Ireland one ("I could see that Catholics were having a bad time of it in NI,and were treated unfairly. Doesn't mean I think they were right to blowpeople up") reminds me of an Orwell essay along precisely these lines. He was writing about the knee-jerk tendency on the British left to support or rationalize Irish Catholic violence. It might have been in the context of reviewing a play by Sean O'Casey, if I don't miss my guess, although it's been some time since I read the piece. Maybe one of you can find it. And Radiant Dragon, smartly and unsurprisingly, invokes Camus. Yep. Mine is the Orwell/Camus position, basically.