By Tariq Shadid
What better way to defeat an enemy than to cause a situation which has its ranks divided, and seeing its energy unleashed by one faction upon another, followed by tit-for-tat retributions, in an unending cycle of mutual destruction?
Watch those who support one common cause going at each other’s throats, and you will find yourself faced with a very difficult dilemma. What if you feel that both sides should settle their differences and return to mutual cooperation and respect? Whatever you say, will always be perceived as wrong and insufficient by either side. Neither side will settle for anything but a complete denunciation of the other, and both will only be satisfied if you express unambiguous support for their camp.
Welcome to the dynamics of ‘internal strife’, one of the most difficult aspects of human interaction. Once the seed of strife has been sown, it proves extremely difficult to eradicate, and this is exactly why the creation of such a situation is always a cherished dream of those who oppose that common cause.
There is an important reason why I am stubbornly refraining from naming any names or groups. I am not even going to explicitly state which situation I am referring to, although those who are active for the Palestinian cause and are in the possession of a Twitter account stand a very good chance of understanding which conflicts I am talking about. This piece has a different ambition than to support or oppose any of the sides who are in furious disagreement with one another. Although I am not expecting it to be successful, this piece is an attempt to refrain from adding any fuel to the fire, and to avoid expressing myself in a way that pushes me into either camp, against my will.
I am talking about general principles of unity and perhaps even reconciliation, not about analyzing the chain of events that has led to the situation that has arisen from it. Internal strife is a potential threat to any existing group of people who work towards a common end, and without any exception is detrimental to the effectiveness of the movement as a whole. What I am writing here should be applicable to any situation where tons of energy are being spent by groups and individuals who at least partly share one common goal, on words and actions that stand in the way of attaining it.
The dynamic that ensues from hard-hitting internal strife develops into a spiral of mutual vilification that can impossibly end in any satisfactory outcome for those involved in this internal struggle. It doesn’t depend on who is ‘right’ and who is ‘wrong’, despite the fact that both sides are usually deeply convinced that their entire string of actions from the very beginning was entirely justified, logical, and unavoidable.
What the warring sides usually fail to see, is that once the mud-wrestling is in full swing, neither side can avoid being stained by it. This is only one of the reasons why such internal struggles never fail to yield a favorable outcome for those who are outside of the movement, and wish to see its failure. You can always count on them to be ready to throw some more gasoline on the blaze, and indulge in the pleasures of watching a movement being damaged in ways that they could never have attained on their own accord, but were always dreaming of.
Some would argue that conflicts like these sometimes are necessary, a form of ‘self-cleansing’, or a stage in the development of a movement in which it redefines itself, and corrects its flaws and weaknesses. Unfortunately, those who think so are misguided, unless they believe that the entire movement must be destroyed and rebuilt from its very foundations at random moments in time. But whoever watches the pinball machine in action without too high a level of personal involvement, can clearly see how the ricochet movement of the bullet continues to deal blast after blast, widening its range, and damaging sectors that will take a lot of energy to repair and rebuild. It also clearly shows that there can only be one winner: the injustice that both warring factions aim to oppose. It gloats, it giggles, it rejoices and it cheers at every blow that is dealt in either direction.
We are all in opposition to Zionism. This is the essence of our unity. We can only succeed at opposing it if we give it our full energy. It is not an easy enemy to beat, in the same way that other forms of racism are stubborn, persistent and powerful forces that permeate deeply into the fabric of society. We simply cannot afford to allow that common struggle to be weakened by internal strife and spite. The mere fact that Zionism benefits from infighting within anti-Zionist ranks should be reason enough to bury the hatchet and focus upon what we are really here for. We wish to see a free Palestine, so let that be our focus.
Indeed, I am telling both sides: enough quarreling about whose fault it is that this is all happening. Enough quarreling about who has the moral high ground. Back to the struggle, isn’t that what you set out to do in the first place? You are apparently forgetting that before this agonizing infighting, we all stood united against the occupation, against the Nakba, against the murders on the Mavi Marmara, against settler terrorism, and against the siege and the bombing of Gaza, to mention only a few of the many things we all agreed on.
If you are convinced that the ‘other side’ within these anti-Zionist ranks is ‘evil’, then let me tell you one thing: you can never convince them that they are. You can never defeat them, or wish them out of existence. You can never sway the entirety of public opinion to your side and make them oppose those others as much as you do. ‘They’ are there, and they will not simply disappear.
And, guess what: neither will Zionism. It will not simply disappear. It requires genuine efforts and hard work to oppose and expose its racist tenets, and to act against its interests. One of its main interests is – yes, you probably guessed it again – our division. Let us counter that with unity, or at least with an end to internal fighting. I know its too much to ask to want both sides to shake hands and say that it’s all in the past. If you can’t make peace with each other, then at least call it a truce, perhaps even by ignoring one another. Let’s show the Zionists that the pro-Palestinian movement as a whole is capable of keeping things together.
I have some genuine worries about publishing this blog. Perhaps I should ask you to forget what you just read, and not to share it on Twitter or Facebook. Perhaps you are being perceived by one of the sides in conflict as a supporter of one of those two sides. If that is the case and you share it, this blog probably will be considered a defense for that side. In reality, it is a defense for neither side, but a criticism of both. I know how unpopular that must probably make me, but I have always stuck with expressing my opinion, and the fact that I am publishing this blog makes it clear that I am willing to face the consequences.
If it ends up being read, I am already prepared for a wave of opposition and hatred against me. I wouldn’t have published it if I wasn’t prepared to face that. But let me tell you this: I will ignore it. Zionism is my target, and I will never lift a finger against those who stand in opposition to it, whether they consider themselves to be my allies or not. Shout, scream, blacklist and vilify as you wish, I am not interested. I am only interested in opposing Zionism and all other forms of racism. If you oppose these too, don’t waste your energy shouting at me – nor at one another – but join me in the struggle against these dehumanizing ideologies.
– Tariq Shadid is a surgeon living in the Arab Gulf who has been contributing articles to the Palestine Chronicle for many years. Some of these essays have been bundled in the book ‘Understanding Palestine’, which is available on Amazon.com. He also is the founder of the website ‘Musical Intifada’ featuring his songs about the Palestinian cause, on www.docjazz.com.