In two articles about the poor suffering oppressed Palestinians in one day, we have our second about Palestinian culture, such as it is. This time we have Ziad J Asali of the American Task Force on Palestine to give us a whitewashed variation on Palestinian history. Here is what he has to say on the subject of Palestinian culture:
"Palestinian culture has developed in the broader Arab, and more specifically Levantine, contexts. Contemporary Palestinian Arabs are among the primary, although not the sole, heirs of the accumulation of history in their land, including prehistoric, ancient, biblical and Jewish, Roman, Islamic, Crusader, Ottoman and British periods. Their distinct national identity emerged contemporaneously with and parallel to the Israeli identity and Zionist movement. Palestinians differ from other Arabs culturally in many ways, but within different localities they also differ from each other.
It is the experiences of the 20th century, particularly the British mandate, the encounter with Zionism and Israel, and the often tense interaction with other Arab societies and states that has given the Palestinians their distinctive national culture. The persistence of the Palestinian issue for so many decades reflects the tenacity and resilience of their national identity and culture."You'll notice that there is nothing specific about Palestinian culture in there, nor is there anything about it anywhere in the article. He doesn't even have anything about the usual suspects like the keffiyeh or the
"The Palestinian quest for excellence in education isn't culturally hardwired or built into their DNA. It is rather the specific byproduct of the Palestinian experience in the past century. Palestinians, particularly of my generation, were forced to confront a reality without national institutions to rely on. Our parents and we knew, after the Nakba in 1948, that we had few real alternatives other than education in making our way in the world."Not exactly. There is no Palestinian quest for excellence in education. However they do study a lot more than other Arabs and this has made them entrepreneurs (as Asali goes on to detail in the next couple of a paragraphs). But it isn't because of the Nakba or any of the other reasons that Asali claims. It's because they had UNRWA which provided free education to every single Palestinian until they were 18. It's a lot easier to be dedicated to education when you aren't paying for it, or in fact paying for anything.
And who need national institutions when you have international institutions to take care of you? No offense to Asali, but it's not exactly impressive when you've been handed everything you've ever needed to succeed from birth and your only obligation is not to screw it up. But as he goes on to admit, the Palestinians have done exactly that.
"Every serious study of the Palestinian economy has noted the deeply onerous effects of the restrictions of the Israeli occupation. Without them, there is no question that Palestinians would be faring better....During the first Intifada that began 1987 and the second that began in 2000, education among Palestinians was significantly disrupted and has not yet fully recovered."We see this style of rewriting history a lot among Palestinian supporters. The intifadas "began" or "started" like tidal waves or maybe rockslides. They just sort of "happened," nobody started them! And if somebody did start them, it certainly wasn't us! We're always the victims, haven't you gotten the memo? So anyway after complaining about the occupation some more (ignoring the Palestinian refusal to end it) he moves on to Palestinian politics and then we have this:
"Over the past 30 years, the rise of religious fanaticism in some parts of Palestinian society, mirroring that in the broader Arab world as well as among Jewish Israelis, has also undermined healthy social, cultural and educational attitudes. However, such fanaticism does not define the Palestinian mainstream or essential national culture. To the contrary, most Palestinians, while devout and socially conservative, remain essentially secular and fundamentally worldly."Uh huh. Yeah, it wasn't just the Palestinians who became fundamentalists! Lots of people did, so it's no big deal right? Of course, it's not just "some parts" of Palestinian society when Hamas not only won the election, they also enjoy the support of 4 out of 5 Palestinians. So as much as Mr. Asali would like to compare his people to Israel, to do so he would have to lie. Sorry.
So let's not linger, so we'll finish with his usual whine fest:
"Palestinians are no better or worse than any other group of human beings. They've reacted to a series of harsh developments over the past century much as any other group of people probably would have. As long as they remain without a country in which they can be first class citizens, this will continue to hamper their economic viability and stunt the development of their society and institutions. Palestinians deserve the opportunity they've been denied for so long, to build their own state and develop their culture in independence and freedom."Sounds good. You just let me know when they are ready to stop complaining and killing and start actually working for peace, okay? Until then, stick to the Huffington Post.