Building National Pride in Palestine?
I’m often aware of the tension that exists between my passion for justice for the Palestinians, as such, a national grouping, and my disgust at anything to do with National Pride. I find the copious numbers of England flags that appear during major football competitions mildly disturbing, an affront to my Internationalist, anti-statist leanings, and so news that Israel is blocking construction of Palestine’s national football stadium leaves me a bit stuck.
To say I’m stuck for a reaction might be a bit of a mistake. I have a reaction: I think any attempt by Israel to block the Palestinian’s cultural defence and development is a problem. But I realise that this takes me right into the territory of hypocrisy.
We could get into a debate between oppressor state and oppressed state nationalism, and indeed, that separation does make some sense to me, not least when I’m defending an independent Scotland, or home-rule for Yorkshire, or even the sort of nationalism promoted by indigenous groups around the world.
I also recognise that this has a lot to do with context in terms of Palestinians as people as well as Palestinians as a nation, i.e. a group of people who’s greater good is subject to the group-think dangers of nationalism, whereby the needs of the weakest are forgotten, indeed replaced, in favour of strengthening an image that is largely pointless and distracts from the material and political issues within the grouping. Its true that the national interest is almost always the interest of the richest and counter to the interest of the poorest.
I suppose it would fit within most of my other views to think “so what, its the homes of Palestinians that are more important”. But the fact remains that Israel would happily see the Palestinians refused all recognition; their players should sign up to the vision of a Jewish state and play for Israel’s glory, with Palestine forgotten as an error of history. But the Palestinians do exist, and are fiercely proud of their football. If they were allowed to compete on an equal footing, they would probably do well in at least the qualifying stages of the World Cup, giving a positive profile to the so-called “Nation of Terrorists”. To this end, I support the idea of a football stadium that helps them make that dream.
There is a certain logic that, simply because Israel has been trying to prevent Palestinian teams playing internationally, we must support the Palestinians in their attempts, as a means by which to confound Israel. Admittedly its a petty excuse for a new avenue to the struggle, but the reactions of Israel to Palestinian football do provide the stage on which to build a new facet of the political campaign. But I do worry it is a distraction.
Football is a distraction from politics and political crises in Britain; perhaps its different when its so politicised, or when politics so dominates peoples lives that they cannot be truly distracted? Football provides a cover for racism and mob-violence across Europe, but perhaps it provides a peaceful outlet for frustration in Palestine? What football has become in our culture may be totally different in another. After all, Football was once a working class game with working-wages, not super-star contacts.
Its a difficult balance to keep, and one where a critical mind must be kept. This much is certain. For myself, I feel there is a need for peaceful stress-relief for the Palestinians, and for something to celebrate, and for something that they choose to use as a peaceful expression of themselves. At the end of the day, if a campaign is about giving them a voice and a choice, can one really oppose their decision to invest hopes in a football stadium?