Building National Pride in Palestine?

Sunday, 22nd November 2009 at 23:03 UTC 6 comments

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?

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Entry filed under: Celebrity, Community, Middle East, Nationalism, News, Politics, Sports.

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6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Steve Thack  |  Monday, 23rd November 2009 at 13:15 UTC

    Think your seeing problems and contradictions where you don’t need to. You also seem to take a dangerously utilitarian view of things. Now i’m no football fan but i’m pretty sure it is a key part of many people’s cultural identity. You reach the right conclusions but i find it strange you take so long to get there. Some how i don’t think you’d have similar issues with a cultural centre, museum or music venue. Suspect this is simply an anti football bias. More thoughts later on english football.

    Reply
    • 2. Graham Martin  |  Monday, 23rd November 2009 at 15:05 UTC

      Two answers:
      1) Don’t I always take a ridiculously long time to reach a conclusion?
      2) I blame the fascists! – Which I’m fairly sure you’re aware is also a genuine answer (see roots of EDL).

      Reply
  • 3. Corey James Soper  |  Monday, 23rd November 2009 at 18:37 UTC

    Nationalism is nationalism is nationalism.

    To be internationalist is to unconditionally reject all ‘nationalist’ forms and organisation; be that the Israeli State, the British National Party, and the West Bank Authority are equally statist and equally nationalist.

    Supporting ‘underdog’ nationalism is silly; nationalism in Palestine is just as oppressive, exclusive and violent as Israeli nationalism as an ideology. Your solidarity with Palestine should be on the basis of their being oppressed humans, not a thwarted nationalism.
    In times gone by, German and Italian nationalism was considered an ‘underdog’ to the French nation-state. Their nationalisms still grew into Naziism and Fascism. Similaraly, Zionism was considered a progressive movement of ‘underdogs’ at the turn of the century.

    If you support Palestinian ‘nationalism’ you are still supporting nationalism – and thus, the state, a ruling class and racism.

    No state solution!

    Reply
  • 4. misterbunbury  |  Tuesday, 24th November 2009 at 20:01 UTC

    “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.”

    Corey and James, I really don’t see your problem with nationalism. It may be a necessary condition for Hitler etc, but that doesn’t mean it’s a sufficient one. Is this an instance of the famed liberal leftist self-hatred? If I’m proud to be part of a bunch of people who have been democratic for ages, given women the vote, funded a health service and sponsored enough universities to discover penecillin and double-helix DNA, then what’s wrong with that? More importantly, do you have any better ideas?

    Reply
  • 5. Corey James Soper  |  Tuesday, 24th November 2009 at 22:28 UTC

    Nationalism has no rational base and it implies support for a nation-state that we oppose, as well as implying people are innately different based on their national (and often racial) background.

    Being proud of innovations made by someone else you have no relation and societal changes brought about by someone else you have no relatiuon to funded by imperialism you had no part in is silly. I’m pretty proud of Karl Marx and Bakunin’s achievements, but I don’t pretend I have any connection to them based on an arbitrary border based on geopolitical factors.

    ‘National Interest’ is an illusion to lower Class-Struggle and a form of false conciousness. Workers and Capitalists have opposing interests, pure and simple, and the national interest is always that of capital. It’s not self-hatred to oppose a tool of the ruling-class.

    Reply
  • 6. Greg  |  Wednesday, 25th November 2009 at 0:42 UTC

    “…no rational base and it implies support for a nation-state that we oppose”
    If you’re going to talk about rational bases, why do you oppose nation-states?

    Quite the opposite from splitting people apart, nationalism is about banding together so that you and your compatriots don’t have to face the big bad world on your own. You pay your taxes and then when you’re abroad, you have the British Consul to support you should things hit the fan. As part of a nation, you work partly for the common good. As a socialist/marxist/whatever you are, I thought you’d appreciate this … or are you in favour of extreme deregulation, trade liberalisation and so on? If so, hi there Mr T, say hello to your mum the baroness for me! When you’ve done that, do elucidate your workable alternative scheme.

    Reply

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