Thursday, April 29, 2010

Environment for Kollaborators

An Arab person I know came back recently from a fellowship on conservation and environment organized by the Middle East Program of the Quebec-Labrador Foundation (QLF). The person (who does not want his/her name mentioned for reasons that will soon become clear) found himself/herself in a small group with Israeli interns without having been forewarned. He/she quickly understood that the main purpose of the training on nature conservation was to bring together Arab and Israeli youth for "peace building". This effectively means breaking the Israeli boycott, turning the oppressed into collaborators and (slyly) imposing a de-facto recognition of the Zionist entity by Arab individuals and civil society organizations. Here's what the QLF site says (my emphasis):

The Middle East Program aims to contribute to bioregional, natural resource conservation, cultural heritage preservation, and peace-building efforts in the Middle East. We accomplish this by fostering environmental leadership and mutual understanding among conservation leaders.
The program has developed an integrated program of mutually reinforcing methods for training, technical assistance, professional exchange and community-based planning projects.  Over the years, the program has built a cadre of more than 120 conservation professionals from Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, the West Bank and Gaza, and North America, who are working across geo-political borders with environmental solutions for the long term in natural resource stewardship.  We hope to nurture reconciliation across a long-standing conflict and create partnerships with organizations, individuals, and governmental agencies in the region. 
I have two things to say to the QLF:

1. You must know that you endanger the people from Lebanon who join your program without knowing where they are going or without fully measuring the consequences of what they are doing: Lebanon is AT WAR with Israel. Any contact with the enemy is legally punishable and considered as treason. Some of the people who collaborate with you from Lebanon have their photos on your website, although it is unclear whether they are or were part of any Israeli-Lebanese collaboration.

2. Your attempt at creating equivalence between oppressor and oppressed and at building consensus (as you say in your publication "Consensus Building and Collaborative Conservation", filled with photos of collaborators having fun-fun-fun together) is risible and denotes (at best) of a shallow understanding of the politics of liberation and oppression. Consensus on what? On the fact that Israel is a colonial, usurping entity that practices a rule of terror and ethnic cleansing in Palestine and in the surrounding Arab countries? There is already a consensus on that: ask any of the 300 million Arabs (except the handful of carefully selected collaborators) and they will say it to you, loud and clear. Better still, I shall borrow the voice of the Palestinian youth (the hundreds of thousands who are not corruptible) who spoke today  in commemoration of the nakba (you probably don't know what it is so go look it up):

(We) Reject the efforts of Israel and its apologists around the world, who aim to direct our efforts at convincing Israel of our inalienable rights rather than resisting its oppression through legitimate and legal means to obtain them; especially organizations that aim to convince us that that conflict is but a symptom of psychological barriers that can disappear through dialogue with the other. Such organizations they completely ignore the reality which is Israel’s oppression and systematic discrimination against the Palestinian people. Organizations like Seeds of Peace, One Voice, NIR School, IPCRI, Panorama, and others specifically target Palestinian youth to engage them in dialog with Israelis without recognizing the inalienable rights of Palestinians, or aiming to end Israel’s occupation, colonization, and apartheid. (my emphasis).
They should add QLF to this list. But QLF is much more pernicious: it seeks to engage Lebanese people in clear breach of the country's law. But then again, the colonials never acknowledged any law but their own.


Karin said...

Some people of the 21st century envision a different reality and appreciate a hand outstretched in peace to better the future for all in the region. Be suspicious, be envious and be critical. This kind of attitude will keep cross country cooperation at a minimum and chances for peace slim. Be brave, and take that hand and you mind just find yourself building a better future for your children and grandchildren.

Anyone who is invited on a free trip/mission/workshop should be aware that there are always "interests." These interests aren't necessarily a bad thing as you point out.

Rami Zurayk said...

I don't usually respond to comments on my blog posts, but this one is just calling for it. Look at zionist arrogance: so now all the Palestinian youth movement, and anyone who does not bend to the will of the colonizer, belong to another (I assume the writer means previous) century. In other words those natives who are not docile collaborators are just backwards and underdeveloped. This is where the great zionist-colonialist "mission civilisatrice": beat the natives into modernity. The zionists incidentally make great use of history: one day they want to bomb Syria back into the stone age, and another they want to take collaborators into the 21st century. A true time machine.

In our schools we teach Fanon in 10th grade. Maybe you should go back into the 20st century and read "The Wretched of the Earth" to understand that the oppressor and the oppressed are not equal, except in the world of the oppressor. There is no bravery in submitting to the oppressor. The bravery is to confront the zionist army and state apparatus, one of the most powerful in the world, with stones and fists. But there again, colonials cannot help it: they have to teach the natives about everything, especially things they know nothing about.

Oh and thanks for confirming that there are political interests behind the commitment of international organizations such as the QLF in the environment of the Arab World. I rest my case.