Thursday, March 10, 2005

Gandhi in Arabia?

I made it to another lecture by Tarek AlBishri last night. He talked about the period following the 1919 uprising and until 1952. After talking about how all the negotiations with the British to leave failed during that period, and how armed resistance was very important, a (goal-oriented) question was raised by Dr. Selim AlAwa. He asked if there were examples of unarmed resistances that successfully resulted in ending an occuptation? Assuming a No answer, many concluded that this shows that all of Abu Mazen's negotations will not lead to anything, and there's no way out except through armed resistance.

After AlAwa's general question was asked, and after the conclusion was made, I waited for someone to provide a counter example, but no one did. So I had to ask, "would the non-violent resistance in India qualify as an example for successfully ending an occupation?".

Everyone came back at me, that "it's a different kind of occupation though!". Well, I wasn't talking about Palestine, I was following up on the first general question.

Yes, I agree, the occupation in Palestine is very different. That is a settlement occupation (ehtelal esteetany), people are being ethnically cleansed and replaced with new people. And the negotations in this case are not to end the occupation, but to allow the natives to live on a tiny portion of their original land. But again, I wasn't talking about Palestine.

Still, the British colonization in India was real. I liked AlBishri's background explanation in response to my question. When Gandhi came back from South Africa, (an Indian) he wanted to get to know how Indians are. He took the train across the country, and he realized that the Indian character at the time was very non-confrontational (that could be debatable I suppose) and spiritual. So civil disobedience fitted right in.

AlBishry made a point I liked; the non-settlment kind of occupations are purely utilitarian. Hence, once you (as a resistance) compromise the benefits that the occupying power is reaping out of the occupation, it starts to question and rethink the rationale behind the occupation and its benefits.

I found that to be somewhat relevant to the British occupation of Egypt. The utilitarian nature of the occupation (Suez Canal and cotton), and the Egyptian character don't seem to me that far from what's described above about India. Maybe less so in Iraq, but worth looking at more. Definetely not in Palestine though.


Hellme said...

Very valid point Mo. The problem in Iraq is that the 'occupation' hasn't been there long enough to develop a dependence on the local populace. India had a multitude of 'offerings' - both in terms of natural resources and labour, where natives worked under, not for the occupier. That clear distinction between ruler and ruled is what made Ghandi's civil disobediance movement so successful. Then, there's the spiritual unity that makes it easy for Indians to find a common goal, i.e. the extraction of the occupier.

Fast forwad to Iraq, where you have 3 different groups with 3 very different agendas, and bitter historical struggle will make it all but impossible for them to unite under a common goal, simply out of sheer retribution. Then, there's the time factor: the occupier hasn't yet developed any form of dependency on the native population; the fact that they are funneling Iraqi oil for their own benefit isn't something that will succumb to a civil disobedience movement. Finally, the occupier here does not depend on the native workforce for anything, and because the occupier is strictly military, that dependency will probably never change.

Wala eh?

H said...

But why would the occupier depend on the native workforce? Sounds like a stupid question, bare with me. It seems that the logical thing is to depend on the cheap local labour. But what would that do to your own image, now that everyone is shoving their patriotic flag down our throats, your competitors might push the locally owned and made against you ( I know that truly happens in Australia). One more thing, would the union let you get away with it, don't think so, here is a simple example. Holden Australia (similar to Opel in Europe and Vauxhall in UK) is a part of GM, and they make some of their cars in Australia, they were prevented to export more than 1800 cars to the US where GM used to change the front grill and puts a Pontiac tag on it. Now, to me, it sounds like it is much better to take the raw material where it can be processed and exported back to the eagerly awaiting Arab countries.

Unfortunately, a peaceful resistance is not a valid option anymore, just simply because the average American (Australian in my case) knows nothing about what is happening, come on, does anyone know that there is still a war in Afghanistan? Don’t think so. They eat what they r being fed by the media. And unless it is spicy and have casualties, it won't get air time. I am not condoning killing civilians or terrorizing people but America’s loss in Vietnam wasn’t because the Vietnamese went to a massive hunger strike.

But as Hellme said, we have 3 different agendas and I don't see one Iraq at the end of the tunnel

Anonymous said...

The untouchables
Dropped like candy
They called to him
Gandhi, Gandhi

The children of God
with hands full of candy
they called him
Gandhi, Gandhi
Patti Smith!