Palestine as a Global Agenda

Abstract: Zionism and the State of Israel are representative of the global secularism and materialism which have taken over the entire world. Tthe battle against Zionism is not just about land but about a far greater clash between secular materialism and the Islamic civilisation built on spirituality and justice. Any attempt to liberate Palestine must be done at a global all-encompassing level with Islam as the framework of reference; Palestine will not be liberated until there is a war against oppression in all its forms throughout the world.

Zionism is both alien and illegitimate in origin: it is a hegemonist and nationalist project rooted and nourished on the traditional European impulse towards expansion and domination. The founding fathers of the Zionist adventure were not in any way believers in Judaism, not even in its distorted, rabbinical form: they were in essence pragmatists who exploited the Jewish heritage as a means to achieve their nationalistic goals. All this, moreover, was done within the broader context of Western strategic hopes for the destabilising and enfeebling of the Islamic world.

Because Zionism’s progenitors were European in their training and mental orientation, they did not find it difficult to reach an understanding with Western politicians, exploiting their own financial power through their extensive and committed diaspora, until the Zionist agenda became subsumed under the more general objectives of nineteenth-century European imperialism. The idea of inserting an alien polity into the very heart of the Islamic world, which would exhaust its resources and obstruct any attempt at reforging Muslim unity, proved immediately appealing to European policymakers and served well the new Western orientation which was materialistic, secular, and obsessed with the idea of territorial expansion.

The Centrality of the Palestine Issue

Zionism can be seen as hostile to every element rooted in ethical and religious principles (excepting those remnants which can be exploited as slogans and national myths). It both represents and serves the new existential ethos which transforms the human race into ‘marketing’ and ‘geo-political’ units which can be deployed, rewarded or punished by the powers that be, who are accountable to no-one save themselves.

Zionism, then, nurtured by and in turn nurturing this global pseudo-civilisation, represents a secular onslaught on the heart of our Islamic nation. The Islamic project, by contrast, is its polar opposite, representing the hope that human civilisation can be rescued from this new worship of the golden calf. To speak of saving Palestine from the Zionists is to speak simultaneously of one’s hope for a global liberation. The ‘Palestinian cause’ does not signify the simple reconquest of a patch of territory occupied by aggressors. It is not even about peace and war. Its implications go much further. For to strike at Zionism in Palestine is to strike at the enemy in its new citadel, which it has constructed at the centre of the world, in the very heart of our Muslim nation, in a land which has always been of unlimited strategic and spiritual fecundity. The West, as a civilisation, seems set to extend its influence to the heartland of the Old World , the better to destroy the surviving traces of spiritual resistance which have remained intact there, and finally to obliterate man’s remaining hopes for the rebirth of a civilisation which is qualitative and humane, rather than quantitative and secular.

Liberating the Liberators

Perhaps the most damaging reason for the failure – or at least the present enfeeblement – of liberation efforts in Palestine to date can be found in the weakness of their intellectual underpinnings. Far too many thinkers in the region have failed to grasp the wider strategic and ideational dimensions of the conflict. Only when these are understood can the foundations be laid for an authentic programme of training and acculturation aimed at imparting to would-be liberators a true understanding of the Zionist assault on humanity, and of the heavy responsibilities carried by everyone who still believes in God, humanity and freedom. It is vital, therefore, that the leaders of the renascent Islamic movement attempt to understand the Zionists and their neo-Crusader allies, and learn how to bring the Islamic alternative to the attention of educated people. It is a tragic fact that a large majority of those presently active in the struggle against Zionism have little inkling of its true global and historical significance; and that many are attempting to fight it with ideas and concepts of Western origin which can only render them mentally subservient to it. It is for this reason that we now see most Palestinian factions drawn into the orbit of global organizations of purely Western inspiration and allegiance achieving nothing, and at the same time divorcing themselves from the culture and support of their own people. It would be hard to deny, too, that many such leaders have become, consciously or otherwise, accessories to the Zionist undertaking. For although psychological and cultural liberation is a precondition for the success of any attempt at material liberation, most of the resistance movements use slogans and models whose nature differs very little in reality from those of the Zionist enemy.

In the light of the above, we can see how important is the transformation represented by the Intifadas. These popular uprisings have succeeded in restoring the vigour of the Palestinian movement, and in wresting the initiative from the hands of the old Palestinian leadership, with all its Arab and international connections that have proved so useless, and placing it into the hands of the oppressed people themselves. This widening of the struggle, the fruit of a categorical change in Palestinian policy, can be attributed in large measure to the popular return to Islam. The spirit, in other words, has returned to the body – and it has moved.

What the heroes of the uprisings have appreciated, albeit not always with the requisite clarity, is that their enemy is not an isolated aberration of history, but represents an intensified form of a global undertaking which today spreads octopus-like over the whole planet, embracing and transforming every aspect of existence by means of its economics, communication, arts and literature, or – more crudely – through the presence of its fleets, intelligence agencies, and the recruitment of local converts. Any attempt to liberate Palestine must, therefore, seek to operate on the same global and all-encompassing level. But this project of global purification must be accomplished under the sign of an Islam which recalls its spiritual as well as its moral vocation. For only this stands any chance of succeeding in the Islamic project to reinvigorate our cultural life, our behaviour, our economies, and our families. Every effort made to restore art, thought, and literature to a high and principled standard, calling people to God and not to the lower self; every effort made to challenge the inequitable and self-destructive economics of the age and to replace them with a system in which the profit motive is subordinate to principles of justice and fraternity; every effort made to topple autocracies and to broaden mass participation in decision-making; every effort made towards returning the Muslim world and restoring the principle of brotherhood and honourable co-operation among peoples: all these efforts will represent steps towards the liberation of Palestine.

This, then, is what we ‘Islamic activists’ mean by the centrality of the Palestine issue. But we should affirm that this ‘vertical and horizontal’ strategy for recovering Palestine does not in any way rule out the pursuit of other liberation projects. Rather, it should be the basis and the model for our struggle with secular materialism on all levels.

Let is also be noted by the Islamic leadership that ever since the Palestinian issue emerged onto the stage of Arab politics in the 1940’s, it has been the main factor which brings certain individuals and groups into either prominence or eclipse, in proportion to the sincere and steadfast loyalty – or otherwise – which they bring to it. For the Palestinian cause is an inherently noble one, which ennobles those who espouse it, and gives them far more than they give to it. It represents one of the most efficient access points to people’s hearts – and also an authentic qualification to lead them.

The men and women who are struggling for freedom within Palestine itself, which is, as we have suggested, the central front, are entitled to expect instance and automatic assistance from those who are working on other fronts, however seemingly remote. For Israeli Zionism itself draws eighty percent of its income and prosperity from Jewish organizations abroad. To keep this central front open and operational in the heart of the enemy is a responsibility and a trust falling on the shoulders of all Muslims and other free people around the world. It will also serve as a model, and a source of living inspiration and hope, to all believing peoples, however apparently weak, and will encourage them to stand up and defy the totalitarian regimes which are ruling them not by consent, but with Western technical, political and economic support. If the Muslims continue to weaken Zionism in Palestine , which is its citadel, then how could they fail to do so elsewhere? It is thus in the interests of every believer, however immediate his own situation, to lend his support to the Palestinian cause.

The reality is that the Zionist project, being violent, aggressive and secular, is formidable in its potency. Its power can only be drained by mobilising the resources of the entire Muslim nation. And the resources in question are not merely of a military nature, they extend also to worlds as disparate as thought, art and economics. They are also, and pre-eminently, spiritual: demanding a return to the principles of renunciation, repentance, piety, reliance on God, yearning for the ultimate meeting with Him, the spirit of Islamic fraternity, selflessness, and the certainty that the final victory shall go to God and the believers. No project undertaken on this tremendous scale can be ‘regional’, or ‘Palestinian’, or ‘Arab’. It is far broader. It represents nothing less than a struggle which is at once cultural, Islamic, and humanitarian. We must, therefore, light the fires of longing, resistance, and sacrifice everywhere on earth. For Palestine will not be retrieved until there is war against oppression in all its forms throughout the world.

Rachid al-Ghannouchi

Rachid al-Ghannouchi is the exiled leader of the Tunisian opposition party, An-Nahdah. Currently resident in London, he is one of the Islamic world’s most prominent political intellectuals and has published many books in Arabic. This article was first written for “The Spirit of Palestine”, Zad Publications, 1994.