On Improving Pro-Palestinian Activism

Most pro-Palestinian activists, whose articles are featured on the various Palestinian websites, and whose publications are slowly but surely breaking through the barriers of the editorial boards of the major news media of the west, deserve a huge compliment for their achievements, their dedication, and their tireless efforts to bring the Palestinian cause under the attention of as many readers as possible.

Although they undoubtedly sometimes feel the strain, the desperation and the fatigue that comes with waging the battle of David against Goliath, they remain relentless in their diligence, eloquent in their literacy, and resilient in confronting the cascades of pro-Zionist hate-mail, ever struggling to put the continuous abuse of Palestinian human rights on the top of every major political agenda.

Among the best and richest resources of pro-Palestinian activism are the Palestine Chronicle, the Electronic Intifada, Al Awda, Palestine Media Watch, and Palestine Remembered, to name only a few of the numerous successful and permanently active media projects. They have all successfully entered the relatively new battlefield of the world wide web, where the Palestinian voice can now be heard uncensored. Also, they have been instrumental in consolidating the undeniable and permanent existence of Palestinian identity in cyberspace.

The acknowledged champions of media activism, on the internet as well as in other media venues, with veterans like Edward Said and Noam Chomsky, and activists of the new generation like Ali Abunimeh, Ramzy Baroud and Mazin Qumsiyeh, to mention only a few, have achieved much more in the field of influencing public opinion, than seems to have materialized so far in the daily reality of international politics regarding the Middle East.

Therefore, we have to keep believing that there is always room for improvement, and we have to always be prepared to criticize ourselves and our strategies, in order to find out how to achieve more, always searching for the road that leads to a maximum impact upon world opinion.

Being satisfied with what we have achieved, will in the long run be detrimental to that same cause that we have invested all of our collective energy in. For activists, recognition as opinion leaders should still be regarded as a means, and never as an end goal.

There is still a wide gap between the cyber-reality of Palestinian achievement, and the reality on the ground, both in the Middle East and on the international level. This exemplifies the failure of Palestinian as well as international politics, and at the same time proves that in a field where opportunities are relatively equal, a lot can be achieved by Palestinians and their sympathizers.

Upon further reflection, there are still some striking similarities between the reality of the Middle East in international politics, and in the world wide web. The most obvious common denominators between the two, are ineffective pluralism, and more importantly, the absence of true and comprehensive effort coordination. These descriptions are characteristic of the current attitude that is being portrayed by both the Arabs and their advocates of the real world on the one hand, and those of the internet on the other.

In other words, there seems to be a tendency to put personal and ‘subgroup’ interests at least at the same level as that of the higher goal, thereby diminishing the impact that could be achieved if these personal interests were granted a little less importance.

I am not saying that anything needs to be done about the enormous variety of websites, or that they should all merge into one huge coordinated effort. However, it would definitely be worth the while if all these media organisations formed an international coalition, and coordinated their efforts by establishing true cooperation among each other, based on direct and regular communication, and restricting competition to the level where it is still yielding productivity, instead of fragmentation.

In the new arena of the world wide web, where opportunities are relatively equal, lies a challenge for pro-Palestinian media giants: to prove that they can succeed where “real world” Middle East politics have failed, and to show the world that inter-Arab division is not caused by intrinsic and static factors, but merely the result of overwhelmingly negative odds in the real world.

Tariq Shadid is a Palestinian general surgeon and media activist living in the Netherlands, and can be reached at [email protected]

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