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Raja Khalidi on Palestinian Liberation and Neoliberalism

At Jadaliyya:

Over the past year, as Arab peoples in sur­round­ing countries erupted in protest against dictators, security regimes, and failed social and economic policies, the Pales­tin­ian people living in their occupied homeland have remained quiescent. Neither have mass protests targeted the Pales­tin­ian “regime’s” policies or nego­ti­at­ing per­for­mance, nor has resis­tance to Israeli occu­pa­tion escalated or taken more effective forms.

In contrast to the tur­bu­lence and rev­o­lu­tion­ary potential of the Arab Spring, has neolib­eral ideology, through its economic policy content, created a Pales­tin­ian con­stituency for normalcy and risk aversion that could hold back progress in the struggle for national lib­er­a­tion? In exploring the impact of recent neolib­eral economic policies of the Pales­tin­ian Authority (PA) on living con­di­tions and popular political con­scious­ness, the burning question is whether these have succeeded in creating a people willing to resist encroach­ments upon their material gains and the liberal way of life.

Intu­itively at least, the even­tu­al­ity of a neolib­eral com­pla­cency seems unlikely, if not absurd, for a people strug­gling for lib­er­a­tion from a regime of prolonged Israeli settler colo­nial­ism. Any informed observer cannot but be cognizant of the ravages on social fabric wrought by neolib­eral policies in many countries, including within the neo/post-colonial range of expe­ri­ences. To the extent that a the fallout from the world economic crisis may evolve into a backlash that targets neolib­eral policies and their impact globally and in the region, even if not nec­es­sar­ily their legit­i­macy, the need to elaborate a relevant critique in the Pales­tin­ian context becomes compelling.

[Read the rest there]

[Also note this Haaretz interview in which Khalidi — in contrast to many others — does not take issue with the PA’s aid depen­dency but rather to the uses to which it puts that aid. He also comments that the bloated PA payroll is a con­sciously Keynesian choice by the PA, the only counter-cyclical tool in its economic policy toolkit. The idea is to exploit pre­ex­ist­ing patterns and flows of capital by using state power to build up Palestine’s resis­tance capac­i­ties. Along similar lines, Samer Abdelnour argues that inter­na­tional NGOs and aid orga­ni­za­tions “must seriously rethink the claim that their work is ‘apo­lit­i­cal,’ should imme­di­ately publicize the extent of potential harm caused through­out their chain of oper­a­tions, and outline a trans­par­ent action plan for elim­i­nat­ing potential harm in their work.” Elsewhere, he, Sam Bahour, and Alaa Tartir offer pragmatic proposals for creating a resis­tance economy, by creating economic facts on the ground from which Pales­tini­ans can project strength. Part of the proposal is using the economic leverage of the Diaspora to re-develop a thor­oughly dede­vel­oped Pales­tin­ian economy, trapped in the cage of a political economy defined by growth in the absence of human devel­op­ment. Also see Linah Alsaafin’s reflec­tions on what has happened to the March 15 Movement in Palestine.]

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1 comment to Raja Khalidi on Palestinian Liberation and Neoliberalism

  • Timothy Ray

    The author speaks as though the P.A. were able to enjoy the sov­er­eignty of a nation with the capacity to set its own strategy, confident in its ability to follow through. The reality is that the P.A. is the elected par­lia­ment of a society that exists at the pleasure of its colonial overlord, who continues to be pumped up and armed by the world’s only super power. Said super­power has declared policy of benign aban­don­ment of this helpless entity to the outcome of its attempts to negotiate with the giant whose boot is on its neck. Beyond rhetoric, how would Mr. Khalidi respond to such a hel­la­cious predicament?

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