Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Globalized Palestine The National Sell-Out of a Homeland by Khalil Nakhleh

Globalized Palestine The National Sell-Out of a Homeland

By Khalil Nakhleh
The Red Sea Press, Inc., 2012; 286 pages

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An introductory comment

I started working full time on the initial draft of this book, in English, about three years ago. While I was seeking a publisher for the English edition, I was determined to have it appear in Arabic first, and in Palestine, because I sought for it to generate national public discourse on our transformation and future, as a people struggling for freedom and emancipation. Indeed, the Arabic edition was published in Ramallah in May 2011. It must be mentioned with appreciation that the translation into Arabic, the publication, and the distribution to public libraries in historical Palestine were possible because of the support of the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation, and the total commitment and determination of its Ramallah staff.

Why now?

Over a span of twenty-five years, or since I stopped being engaged in teaching and research as an academic anthropologist, and shifted to becoming an “applied” anthropologist, or working in the field of so-called “development,” I became preoccupied with how to transform Palestinian society and people - my society and people - from an occupied, colonised, and fragmented society towards a liberated, productive, free, and self-generating society, not dependent on external financial aid. It was, and continues to be, a deeply reflective, agonising, and personal process of thought, analysis, and action, in which I was engaged as a genuine “participant observer,” through which I was aspiring to see at the end of the tunnel a society with a tightly knit social fabric empowered by coherent political, economic, and liberating human values that would rise against colonialism, oppression, and despotism. This book is, in a certain sense, a partial end result of this reflective and analytic process.

Through an introduction and four chapters, and by relying on a micro-analytic approach, benefiting from my personal experience as an engaged participant-observer, the book challenges and criticises the various fragmented, non-cumulative, deceptive, and mythological attempts to “develop” Palestinian society over the span of the last thirty years. It is a study of Palestinian “development”: the development of the people, the society, and the political-economic system. It is about how truncated, distorted, and mythological the official claim of Palestinian “development” is and has become. Basically, it is about the role of an informal tri-partite coalition of Palestinian capitalists-political elite, Palestinian “developmental” NGOs, and transnational “aid” agencies in impeding, obstructing, and negating what I call, “People-Centered Liberationist Development” (PCLD). As argued throughout this work, PCLD is inherently a process of social and political self-determination and liberation; and, as such, it aims primarily at resisting and ending foreign occupation, colonialism, and hegemony, as well as internally perpetuated apartheid, be it political, economic, or social.

I claim throughout this book that there is an inherent incongruence between Palestinian absolute dependence on Western transnational aid and the Palestinian official expectation that financial aid, whose primary source emanates from Western governments and/or agencies, is the avenue to developing and emancipating Palestinian people and society from the poverty and pauperisation created by the colonial system of occupation, and is supported and sustained by these same sources. I assert that aid advanced to Palestine under prolonged occupation and colonialism is political aid par excellence, advanced to my people, specifically to acquiesce and submit to an imposed political agenda and programme. Such aid shackles, mortgages, and holds hostage the entire current society and future generations in political and economic debt. It is aid that focuses on consumption and mortgaging people. It is aid that is anti-production and anti-liberation.

Although this book is about Palestine, it is not exclusively so. It is also about the important lessons that we can learn from South Africa since 1994, when apartheid was transformed into a social category of control, oppression, and a system of exploitation by the people’s own indigenous self-proclaimed leadership. It is also about Latin America and about many other struggling peoples, in whom the current Palestinian struggle is embedded, and cannot be but embedded, thanks to the global process of colonisation and emerging re-colonisation.

Since Palestine is still effectively under the hold of Zionist settler colonialism, I benefitted from carefully re-reading and reviewing the work of Frantz Fanon about colonised countries in Africa, and countries where colonisation was formally terminated, but where developments strike an eerie resemblance to twenty-first-century Palestine. From this vantage point, the current analysis cannot be only an analysis of Palestine today; it is an analysis of a wider scope: how the “political economy of the oppressed,” or the “political economy of the occupied,” may look in the globalised twenty-first century.

I am sounding serious “alarm bells” for what may happen to us - the Palestinian people and society - if we persist on this path of zealous acquiescence to neoliberal agendas imposed on us by the United States, Israel, Western transnational aid agencies, and corporate finance. In this book, I call clearly and openly for strategic counter “re-engineering” measures that span our perceived collective national consciousness, our prevalent political environment since Oslo, our prevalent economic investment environment, and the abusive role of Palestinian capitalists to maximise their profits. I advocate a need for a determined and purposeful “re-engineering” of the prevalent environment of the tyranny of transnational aid agencies, and the function of such aid, as well as a conscious effort at “re-engineering” the prevalent social, cultural, and normative environment.

I don’t claim to offer magical recipes for our collective emancipation. I claim that together we can and should be able to harness our collective creative indigenous energies if we’re determined to liberate ourselves. I hope that this book will be helpful towards this end.

Khalil Nakhleh is a Palestinian anthropologist from Galilee who has been residing in this part of the homeland for the last 19 years. He may be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .