Monday, November 14, 2011

The Narrative of Palestinian Victimhood

My thanks to commenter Malcolm for having brought this speech by Shelby Steele to my attention.

I have often argued against looking at the world through the lens of a fictional narrative. As recently as yesterday, I offered Prof. John Gray’s analysis of Francis Fukuyama’s tendency to analyze history through a grand narrative.

In his speech Steele analyzes how and why the Palestinians have crafted a narrative of their own victimhood.

In the following paragraphs Steele explains how the Palestinians have used the narrative:

“Why not? These narratives, these poetic truths, are the source of their power. Focusing on the case of the Palestinians, who would they be if they were not victims of white supremacy? They would just be poor people in the Middle East. They would be backwards. They would be behind Israel in every way. So this narrative is the source of their power. It is the source of their money. Money comes from around the world. It is the source of their self-esteem. Without it, would they be able to compete with Israeli society? They would have to confront in themselves a certain inferiority with regard to Israel – as most other Arab nations would have to confront an inferiority in themselves and be responsible for it.

“The idea that the problem is Israel, that the problem is the Jews, protects Palestinians from having to confront that inferiority or do anything about it or overcome it. The idea among Palestinians that they are victims means more to them than anything else. It is everything. It is the centerpiece of their very identity and it is the way they define themselves as human beings in the world. It is not an idle thing. Our facts and our reason are not going to penetrate easily that definition or make any progress.

“The question is, how do they get away with a poetic truth, based on such an obvious series of falsehoods? One reason why they get away with it in the Middle East is that the Western world lacks the moral authority to call them on it. The Western world has not said ‘your real problem is inferiority. Your real problem is underdevelopment.’ That has not been said, nor will ever be said – because the Western world was once colonial, was once racist, did practice white supremacy, and is so ashamed of itself and so vulnerable to those charges, that they are not going to say a word. They are not going to say what they really think and feel about what is so obvious about the circumstances among the Palestinians. So the poetic truth that Palestinians live by carries on.”

I strongly recommend that you read it all.

1 comment:

David Levine said...

This makes sense. I think we're only beginning to understand how purposively deceptive both individuals and groups have become. More than anything else, I am furious that Barack Obama has made this manipulation by creating narratives mainstream (although NPR certainly laid the seeds for this chameleonization of human relations). To think that such a morally bankrupt individual is leading our country makes me sick.