Nabulsi on Palestine, in LRB

Today's must-read: LRB · Karma Nabulsi · Diary

Nowadays, when Palestinian activists in their twenties and thirties meet up with veterans of the Palestinian struggle, they show an unexpected thoughtfulness towards the older, revolutionary generation, to which I belong. This is nothing like the courtesy extended as a matter of course to older people in our part of the world: it is more intimate and more poignant. What brings us together is always the need to discuss the options before us, and to see if a plan can be made. Everyone argues, laughs, shouts and tells black jokes. But whenever a proper discussion begins, the suddenly lowered voices of our frustrated young people, many of them at the heart of the fierce protests on university campuses and in rights campaigns elsewhere, have the same tone I used to hear in the voices of our young ambulance workers in Lebanon in the 1970s and 1980s: an elegiac gentleness towards the hopelessly wounded, towards those who were already beyond repair.

The way Palestinians see things, the fragmentation of the body politic – externally engineered, and increasingly internally driven – has now been achieved. This summer, even the liberal Israeli press began to notice that the key people in Ramallah, the Palestinian Authority’s capital in the West Bank, no longer discuss strategies of liberation but rather the huge business deals that prey on the public imagination. Every institution or overarching structure that once united Palestinians has now crumbled and been swept away. The gulf between Gaza and the West Bank, between Hamas and Fatah, between Palestinians inside Palestine and the millions of refugees outside it, between city and village, town and refugee camp, now seems unbridgeable. The elites are tiny and the numbers of the dispossessed and the disenfranchised increase every day. There is, at this moment, no single body able to claim legitimately to represent all Palestinians; no body able to set out a collective policy or national programme of liberation. There is no plan.

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Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.