Samson Blinded: A Machiavellian Perspective on the Middle East Conflict
[ Palestinian leadership and Arafat ] [ Palestinian area under Israeli occupation ]

Israeli colonialism in Palestine

Edward Said decries the damage colonial powers, including Israel, do their foreign subjects, including Palestine. Professor Said forgets the Arabs were colonists—and slavers to boot. Civilized colonialism has done more good than harm to indigenous people. Most of the territories that became European colonies were rife with tribal warfare, and the peace the colonial powers imposed saved many lives, though others were lost in police actions. Colonialism let savages leap-frog from the Bronze Age to modernity. Further, civilized rule was profitable for the colonies, spared military expenses, the maintenance of a royal court, and corruption; and payment (which Edward Said calls “colonialextortion”) was usually taken in products of little or no value to the locals which they did not exploit. If they had, their tribal chiefs would have stolen more than any colonial power did. As far as Israel is concerned, Palestinians today live far better than their ancestors did fifty years ago, better than other Arabs in countries without oil.

Edward Said often argues both sides of an argument. On one hand, he favors Palestinian nationalism, but on the other he criticizes the colonial partitioning of the Middle East, which destroyed Arab unity. The Palestinian nation, however, resulted from that dissection, and Israelis have argued in vain that there is no such thing as a Palestinian nation, that Palestinians are equally at home fifty miles away in Jordan. Beside, the mythical Arab unity, whose loss Edward Said laments, never existed, since the Middle East has almost always been split among different states and cultural influences: Egyptian, Assyrian, Greek, Roman, Persian, and Turkish, to name a few, and always was a conflict area, well before modern Israel.

Palestinian society has never existed. The concept of a Palestinian nation first appeared in the 1960s. Earlier references are to Arabs living in Palestine. What kind of society was there in an always occupied country? History records no Palestinian home rule of their own, nor did the Palestinians develop any of the institutions of modern society. Similarly, Edward Said’s claims that the Israelis destroyed the Palestinian economy contradict his claim that Arab technological and scientific development suffered because of the political climate Israel created. There is little evidence of Arab science and technology, none in modern times anyway—which Edward Said admits when he says Arab civilization reached its apex in Andalusia,[1] specifically because it involved Jews.

[1] A flourishing multicultural state under Muslim control in the south of Spain for some centuries. Its loss reverberates with Islamists today.