“The starting point is awareness of what one actually is, and self-knowledge as a product of the historical process that has established in you infinite traces, without leaving any record of these traces, so it is important to work on producing your own record.”
Antonio Gramsci, Prison Notebooks
With this quote, the book “Zionism from the Point of View of its Victims” by the Palestinian writer and thinker Edward Said opens. The book was originally a lengthy study published in the winter 1979 issue of the magazine “Social Text” with the same title (1), and it was translated into Arabic by Fouad Abdel Muttalib. The edition we rely on in this report was issued by Shafak Publishing and Distribution House in 2019.
The aforementioned quote can be considered a basic building block in the approach followed by Edward Said in his book, as he notes the absence of historical knowledge of Zionist thought among non-Zionists, and through the book he attempts to present a conscious critical vision about what Zionism represented for the Palestinians, in order to re-see history and produce “ Record,” according to the term used by Gramsci, expresses the point of view of the victim, not the beneficiary, by describing this record/awareness as a primary necessity for understanding.
“And identity?” I said, and he said: “Self-defense…
Identity is the daughter of birth, but it is…
In the end, it is not the creativity of its owner
Inheriting a past
I am the multiplicity…in
Internal external renewable
But I belong to the victim question
If I hadn't
From there I trained my heart to
A metaphorical deer is raised there.”
Perhaps the verses written by the Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish in eulogy for Edward Said explain what he mentions in his book, as he is a Palestinian Arab with a Western intellectual background, by virtue of his education and upbringing, which he analyzed in his autobiographical book “Out of Place,” which helped him, as he points out, to see the phenomenon. The same from two different points of view.
In the beginning was Palestine
In this book, Edward Said uses his academic tools as a thinker and critic to draw a review of the history of Zionist thought in European societies since the end of the eighteenth century, through analysis of a large number of literary texts, as well as the writings of thinkers and politicians, documents and reports.
At the beginning, Edward Said points out the importance of the name, and reviews how many Zionist literature insisted on denying the use of the name Palestine before the British Mandate outside the framework of its use as an administrative name, and how this denial was later used to falsify the facts. It traces references to Palestine in the literature of Arab geographers, historians and poets since the nineteenth century, as well as in European literature since the Middle Ages, while contradicting the false Zionist denial of the facts.
By understanding the demographic and humanitarian realities of Palestine, it is shown how we can understand the political force of the Balfour Declaration, which was drawn up by a European power on a non-European land, ignoring its local population, and how the existing reality in Palestine was removed by establishing the idea of denying existence to Palestine, and denying existence to the local population.
In order to understand this complex relationship between Zionism and Western colonialism, Said examines Zionism historically as a political thought from two aspects: In terms of its affiliation and connection to other ideas and policies, and on the other hand, as a system that accumulates power and ideological legitimacy, after the displacement of the population, ideas, and previous legitimacy, he says: “One must admit that all liberals, and even most radicals, were unable to overcome the Zionist maneuver to equate anti- Zionism and anti-Semitism. Saeed is aware of the difficulty of writing about the Palestinian-Zionist conflict due to the constant insinuation of anti-Semitism, but he emphasizes the role of critical awareness in distinguishing between anti-Semitism and opposition to Zionism.
Said returns to Lord Balfour to read his notes, specifically to a note he made in 1919 in which he says: “The four great powers are committed to Zionism, whether it is right or wrong, good or bad,” even if it means “harming the 700,000 Arabs who now inhabit that land.” Old”. Edward Said starts from this observation in an attempt to explain the network of power relations that was established at this time between the European, who sees himself as superior, and the Easterner, who sees himself as inferior.
Said begins his journey by analyzing literary and non-literary texts in which the seeds of Zionist thought appear. Among the examples he presents is George Eliot’s novel published in 1876, which views Zionism as an integrated religious and social project, and the East as a place that needs to be rebuilt according to political ideas. Civilized, while ignoring the presence of indigenous people. He believes that George Eliot here is just an example, no different from other European examples in the nineteenth century in their view of the East, and they all agree to settle Zionism in this region with the help of the major European powers, in order to bring enlightenment and progress to what they agreed was “a non-Arab population.” They exist, in an empty land.”
“There is an unmistakable similarity between the experiences of Palestinian Arabs at the hands of Zionism and the experiences of these black, yellow and brown people with nineteenth-century imperialists who treated them as lowly and secondary human beings.”
Zionism from the point of view of its victims, Edward Said
Said points out that Zionism was presented not as a “Jewish liberation movement,” but as a Jewish movement for colonial settlement in the East, stressing that Western imperial views are fundamental to Zionism, its view of the world, and its sense of the other. He explains that imperialist ideas were formed as a political philosophy whose goal was regional expansion and legitimization, by reshaping the region and transforming its people into objects that could be used, through possessing the power and reputation of science.
In the service of imperialism
Colonialism dealt with the indigenous people of various races who inhabited the lands of the Americas, Asia, and Africa as a race inferior to the European race. They could simply be ignored or exploited, whether as labor or even recruited in long wars, or as Henri Poincaré, the French philosopher of science, described: “They were used The natives as subjects of the white Frenchman's rifle.
By the middle of the nineteenth century, the idea that the European should rule the non-European was strengthened, a view that subsequently affected the relationship with the land, the corruption of the belief that the white/civilized man could cultivate and populate the land, while the indigenous/savage people did not deserve the lands they inhabited, which They cultivate it in ineffective ways (by Western standards), and these are the same ideas that legitimized apartheid in a country like South Africa, for example.
In order to reinforce these ideas, the European colonial will was able to distort science and create pseudo-scientific arguments in biology and philology, which he referred to as “distortion of science.” These racial concepts developed and moved from the field of linguistics to biology and social sciences.
From the same perspective, Zionism viewed Palestine as imperialism saw it as an empty land, and its view was based on what it described as the “effective absence” of the indigenous population. To examine the Zionist view of Arabs, Said reviewed many Zionist and Israeli literature, including Israeli children’s literature, which he noted mostly revolves around brave Jewish children killing traitorous, lowly Arabs with insulting names. These ideas are not limited to individual authors, but rather derive their ideas from… State institutions, according to Edward Said.
Edward Said draws attention to an important detail, which is that the success of Zionism in making its way is linked to the fact that it is not just a general colonial vision, but rather a policy based on details, organized institutions, a settlement program, and a set of tools to control agriculture, culture, trade, and industry, which is what he reveals through his analysis. A number of excerpts from the book “Trial and Error: An Autobiography” by Chaim Weizmann.
Said also explains the role of the Jewish National Fund, which serves as an institutional confirmation that the Zionist state will not be a state of citizens, but rather a state for a people who were mostly in the diaspora. He examines how the ideas of genocide and destruction of villages and homes were established, and how Zionism shifted from treating Arabs as theoretically non-existent to establishing Non-existence, realistically and legally, by destroying the largest possible number of Arab villages, so that the Palestinian becomes a refugee or a second-class citizen, excluded from benefiting from the resources allocated to the Jewish citizen.
Said also analyzes the complex laws that he describes as “Kafkaesque,” and which enabled the occupying state to seize thousands of hectares of Arab land, such as the Emergency Property Confiscation Law of 1949, the Absentee Property Law of 1950, the Land Acquisition Law of 1953, and the Property Rights Law of 1958.
To examine the relationship between the Arabs and the occupying state after its formation, Said analyzes the testimonies of a number of Israeli Arabs who suffered from Israeli brutality, including deportation, imprisonment, house bombings, censorship, and subjection to military orders. He reviews the separation between Arabs and Jews inside Israel, and the division of laws between Jews and non-Jews. It also reviews a number of cases that highlight the disregard for Arab lives, the most prominent of which is the Kafr Qasim incident in October 1956, in which a member of the Israeli occupation army killed 49 unarmed civilians, and when he was tried, he was fined one penny, that is, less than an American cent.
Edward Said returns to the tools of text analysis by reviewing a document drawn up by the administrator of the Northern District in the Israeli Ministry of Interior, Yisrael Kenning, the full text of which was leaked in 1976. It includes recommendations under the title: “Draft Memorandum on the Treatment of the Arabs of Israel,” and it contains recommendations on ways to weaken and hinder the Arab citizens of Israel. Economically and educationally, by using science as political punishment and encouraging immigration. Said believes that these ideas are presented from a standpoint of patriarchal domination over Arab citizens as the lowest class.
Examination of the Palestinian situation
In order to analyze the mass exodus in 1948, Said returns to the analysis of the Palestinian conditions before the Nakba, in an attempt to re-understand society in its various aspects in the face of the British Mandate and the Zionist colonial effort. The book ends with a brief enumeration of the issues that he sees as issues that need conscious attention as cultural issues. It is no less important and practical than others, most notably human rights and the problem of violence and Israeli state terrorism, and the need to expose the falsity of the fabricated claim that the Palestinian conflict is in essence an attack on Western democracy, and questions the role of thinkers in legitimizing the state’s possession of the right to practice violence against civilians and recognizing it without accountability. .
This book, or “extensive research,” despite its short nature, is considered an important introduction to begin reading Edward Said’s larger project on the Palestinian issue. Among the most famous works he published in this context are “The Question of Palestine,” “Gaza-Jericho: An American Peace,” and “Oslo: Peace Without Land,” and finally the book “Orientalism,” which is considered Said’s most important work and the summary of his project in this field.
- Zionism from the Standpoint of Its Victims – JSTOR
- Zionism from the point of view of its victims – Edward Said