On the Colony and Post-Colony

Feb 2013

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Israel, for its part, after being born of European colonialism, became the main ally of American empire. Proclaimed as a bulwark of the “West” against the “East,” it daily metes out violence and chaos to native Palestinian society and to those who live around it. In fact, empire works to make sure that violence and chaos become the destiny of those outside West (particularly, the racially white West). It might even be a kind of imperial lesson: “If you do not prefer direct colonization, we will make sure you regret us leaving, and we will continue to rob you of your resources, and leave no room for you to rest.”

There is also, now, an obsession with the West that is common to Pakistan and Palestine, an obsession that seems to include self-loathing and a dismissal or denial of one’s culture and one’s identity. In Pakistan, some Pakistanis even promulgate an ideology akin to Bernard Lewis whom Edward Said critiqued through much of his life. That ideology is one where Islam is the problem, and any link with Arabs and Arab culture is maligned. Even just causes—like the Palestine cause—are burden for those in this camp. They fail to acknowledge the linkages between the common people in Pakistan and Palestine; a desire for a life for dignity, justice, and self-determination. Many Palestinians, too, are still obsessed with the West, to which they look for rescue, forgetting that it was the west that created their current problem in the first place and continues to support Israel to this day.

Reactionary politics and reactionary scholarship are thus evident in Palestine and Pakistan. If that sometimes takes on Bernard Lewis’ ideology, at other times, such politics and scholarship take the form of negation, evasion, and denial. Some respond to the repression of women’s rights, for instance, with a new language of evasion and denial that includes terms like “piety,” “context,” and “structure.” Of course one needs to challenge Western hypocrisy, but that does not mean that we evade, cover up, or deny that we have problems to deal with.

Having said that, we need not forget that people in both countries have also taken anti-imperialist stances, while at the same critical of local problems, for a long time much like the Arab thinker, Al-Khatibi. Many have critiqued internal repressive structures as well as the colonial legacy and neo-colonial realities and expressed solidarity with the oppressed locally and abroad. Like Ibn Khaldoun, many of us think of justice and dignity as a circle. If one of us is being treated with indignity and with injustice, humanity as a whole will experience a collapse. Injustice and indignity to one is injustice and indignity to all.

Magid Shihade is a faculty member at the Institute for International Studies at Birzeit University, Palestine. His research focuses on modernity, violence, identity, and the anthropology and politics of knowledge. His book, Not Just a Soccer Game: Colonialism and Conflict among Palestinians in Israel, was published in the 2011 by Syracuse University Press.

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One Response to On the Colony and Post-Colony

  1. […] Pakistani left. Sunaina Maira discusses the Pakistan liberal antipathy to Palestine. Magid Shihade draws comparisons between his home, Palestine, and the conditions in Pakistan where he has spent time. […]

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