Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Good Doctor

By Joseph El-Khoury


To all Arab leftists the nickname “The Doctor” (El-Hakim) applies to only one man. Dr George Habash, founder and leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), who led this group influenced by a blend of Arab Nationalism and Marxism for over five decades. Dr Habash who hailed from occupied Palestine and studied medicine at the American University of Beirut in the 1950s belongs to a time when it was possible and almost unremarkable for an Arab Christian to assume a leadership role in a broad reaching political organization. He witnessed defeat after defeat at the hand of the Israeli war machine but also, more significantly, through the efforts of the Arab establishment and their agents. Many mistakes were made, unholy alliances and tactical disasters with far reaching strategic and ideological consequences but the intentions were well founded. Misunderstood by their compatriots, the doctor and his companions remained steadfast in their fight for the recognition of Palestinian rights by the International community and the establishment of a democratic state which could serve as an example of what a modern Arab society could be and should be. Some argue that we live in a different era where this breed of idealists has no place. In many ways the fight started in the 40s and 50s continues against Zionism, corruption and inequalities but is it the same struggle when it is motivated by a different set of values? Are Hamas and Hezbollah the natural successors to the PFLP? I find it hard to believe that the Palestine of Khaled Mishaal will be the one whished for by Dr Habash. It is maybe because Habash couldn’t resolve this dilemma he decided to voluntarily step down from the party leadership in 2000: A measure rarely seen in Middle Eastern political culture.

Goodbye Doctor, you will continue to inspire us all.

8 comments:

Wassim said...

To be honest I liked your blog more when you didn't pretend that you cared about the Palestinian cause. I know you need to boost your readership but still...

Arab Democracy said...

Wassim,
It's not our style to delete any comment done on any article published on arabdemocracy. It's been more than six months we're online, and we were proud that till your last comment, we always had a debate of ideas on our pages. This is the core of our editorial line and we have no intention to change it. if you have any editorial suggestion you can email us at arabdemocracy@gmail.com and our editorial team will decide whether it needs to be considered or not. Finally, your participation and that of all our readers in the debate on our Articles is of course more than welcome, and we remind our readers that we are not expecting any judgemental
(positive or negative) comments in our public sections.
The Editorial Team
www.arabdemocracy.com

Joseph said...

Dear Wassim

We dont need to boost our readership.Things are going well but thank you for your concern. Also by writing articles in support of the Palestinian cause we risk loosing readers who disagree with us on this issue. But challenging ourselves and others into a useful debate is the aim of arabdemocracy. Otherwise we could have each started our own blog and rambled endlessly.

And on a personal level please dont lecture me on Palestine. I can hardly see what credentials you have to do so.

Best Wishes

Anonymous said...

I have actually written a really witty but mean statement in response to Wassim’s comment but as I was about to post it I realized that I wasn’t interested in falling prey to petty and vain war of words.

I think what attracts me to reading this blog regularly (and I know I’m supposed to contribute and I will, I apologize for the delay) is not so much that I agree with the writers’ points of view (because I often don’t) but rather the ability of contributors to educate readers on issues that were foreign to many of them and humanize them. Contributors to this blog are generally genuine people of good character that are bringing to light issues that are buried under the sands of political correctness and appropriateness. They have the courage to criticize their culture, governments, and religious upbringing, and above all seek the truth no matter what the outcome.

I am evangelical in my belief that if ye are harming none, do as ye will. I also do believe that cheap shots may win YOU a few readers Wassim, but it would be the type of readers that lack self-confidence and self-esteem and most likely credibility. You know the kind of men - to plagiaries a quote by President Roosevelt - that think they are prisoners of fate, when in reality they are prisoners of their own mind.

I am beginning to sense that your resentment for this blog is really a stealth cover for not accepting the fact that maybe just maybe a guy called Joseph does actually care about Palestinians and other Arabs. Every now and then you will run into non-Arabs and non-Muslim Arabs that care a great deal about Palestinians; they actually outnumber the number of Muslims and Arabs that pretend to care.

Marwan -

Wassim said...

My my, Marwan has certainly put some effort in his comment but sadly has wasted a lot of time. I'm also quite pleased to notice that he falls into the very trap he thought to avoid, should it exist beyond the confines of his mind.

Marwan, the Palestinian cause is not a monopoly to be had by those who, through accident of birth, happen to have the 'right' religion, nationality or ethnicity to do so. Your theory that maybe it is poor Joseph's name (and the inference that he may be Christian) might lead me to criticise his posts reminds me of a school yard phrase "Whoever smelt it, dealt it". This refers to the person who tries to hide the fact that they have farted by pretending to have noticed it first.

Coming back to Josephs post, I criticise him because the nature of Arabdemocracy's posts so far are firmly within a liberal capitalist discourse more at home in a newspaper like the Economist or in the capitals of Europe and North America than in the Arab world. A closer look at someone like George Habash will tell us that he would have been vigorously opposed to the vision of the region Arabdemocracy claim to champion. Of course, supporting a charismatic dead political figure is the oldest trick in the book and can win free political points. This can of course be unintentional, and similarly, I can see you share a similar problem by naturally quoting from an American president as if you have internalised being an American or a European rather than an Arab. That discourse colours their (and your) posts and influences who you consider 'good' and 'bad' guys. Criticism of those whose views you conform with amount to a gentle chastisement within a safe area of discussion whilst those unlucky (or lucky) enough to oppose this vision for the Middle East are constructed as violent, regressive "others" whose viewpoint cannot be understood, nor should be. The problem Marwan, is one of starting points. One starting point (yours) begins in Washington, another starting point begins in the Middle East. The various Arab blogs concerned with the politics of our region reflect that, though some are clearly more tolerant of criticism than others.

Sincerely,
Wassim

Anonymous said...

Wassim - Please refer to comments you made on your blog sometime last year.

I enjoyed reading the rest of the post. Thanks for the attention.

Marwan -

joseph said...

I dont think that Wassim has a problem with my name or my background. At least I hope so. He has a problem with seeing the world in anything else but black and white, good and evil etc. And I am ready to bet this dichotomy applies beyond politics and the Middle East issue.

I am not sure what posts you refer to when you speak of 'Capitalist'. Frankly I am ready to be convinced that Hamas, Hezbollah, The Iranian regime,The Syrian apparatchiks are anti-capitalist.You sound too smart to be fooled by the 'socialist' and 'revolutionary'claims of the Syrian Baath party. This is a classic dictatorship which benefits a few at the expense of the majority.And Ahmadinajad last time I checked had been supported by the very conservative elements of the Teheran Bazaar.The reactionary petite Bourgeoisie in Marxist terms. So our disagreement is not about capitalism.
'Liberalism', well yes I am a liberal and a secular both socially, culturally and religiously. Again the US is in many ways not liberal and has been moving towards the extreme religious right for many years. Guess what! they have a lot in common with the bearded illiberals that you support.

In summary, I think you view us through the prism of a mythical manicheic struggle that distorts everything we say.We can only be the enemy because you want us to be the enemy. Anything else will shatter your concepts and challenge your comfortable position.The sad thing is that from reading your posts you are clearly capable of more.

Anonymous said...

I didn't say he had a problem with your name or background. I said he had a problem with the fact that you cared about issues in the Middle East, particularly the situation in the Palestinian territories, given who you are.

If you read his blog, on the one hand you are brought to think more critically on various issues, which makes you want to read him consistently. On the other however, he dives into petty discussions, attacking people and groups of people based on where they live and their national affiliation.

It might be easier to choose the personnal attack format when responding to an opinion, chances are you might succeed in pushing people to react similarly (you would hope), and more importantly you don't need to think thoroughly about what you want to say. Just keep writing and support your arguments (if you wish to call them that)with good english, philosophies, and theories.

I was working late last night when I posted my initial comment and responded to Wassim's second post. I kept it short as I I didn't want to fall prey to emotional responses. I was going to address his remarks on capitalism, liberalism, religion, etc., I decided against doing so. I don't think Wassim cares about my views or anyone's views for that matter. I suspect he is looking for yet another opportunities to spit his venom and disrespect people and when called upon it, he would yet again cry constructive criticism.

To each their own, I don't think I'm a conformist, but if calling Ahmadinejad or Chavez Illuminatis, quoting Roosevelt or seeking to wipe out Israel from the face of the earth is what it takes to be one, then as my good friends from New Jersey would say, fo'getaboutit.

Marwan -