By Bouthaina Shaaban – CounterPunch
Despite the technological effects with which the director of Avatar crams his movie, the reason behind its popularity is not only these technological effects but the themes which touch every human conscience. This is in addition to the symbolism of the movie concerning the conflict between peoples and their invaders – from Iraq to Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Palestine. The source of all these conflicts is, as usual, the greed which is usually masked by other pretexts and justifications.
Through Avatar I lived the story of the Palestinian, Iraqi, Afghan and Lebanese peoples and the wars waged against them; where the West treats these peoples as if they were the children of the “Navi” tribe with their blue clothes in their planet Pandora.
Settlers landed on planet Pandora driven by the greed for its wealth. Their calculations were focused on the material gains which they can only get through possessing the land and its natural resources. To be able to do that they had either to kill or expel the Navi who are tied to their land, nature, holy tree and their customs which show equal respect to human life and nature, in bleak contrast to the attitude of the invading settlers who mock sanctities and human respect for nature. They only see the things which give them large amounts of money.
This contrast between the values of two cultures is at the essence of the creation of Israel. For seventy years, it has killed the Palestinians on a daily basis, Judaized their holy places, settled their land, confiscated their water, uprooted their trees, mocked their beliefs, their commitment to their land and their way of life. Those who created this settlement armed it to the teeth with hatred, and provided it with weapons of mass destruction.
The movie needs only the Navi natives of planet Pandora to raise the Palestinian flag and the invaders to carry the Israeli flag to become a detailed reading of the Israeli settlement of Palestine with modern cinematic techniques, but also with symbolic nuance that illustrates the nature of this conflict.
I suggest that demonstrators against Israeli occupation wear the blue shirts of the Navi tribe in order to make it easier for westerners to understand their cause. Invaders always target the people’s beliefs and holy places; that is why Israel is committing another robbery by confiscating Islamic holy places in the Sanctuary of Abraham (al-Haram al-Ibrahimi) in Hebron, Bilal Mosque, which like al-Aqsa Mosque, are branches of the holy tree for hundreds of millions of Muslims who defend them in as much as they defend their land.
The media machine divides people into two types: the first is definitely a native, strictly a Muslim Arab; and the second is the Israeli settler who cannot be touched by the charge of terrorism even if he committed the most heinous terrorist crime in full sight of the whole world. Otherwise, how can we explain that Muslims are accused of terrorism and assassinated on mere suspicion, while those who converged in Dubai from different capitals of the world, armed with cutting edge technology and equipped with European and Australian passports to carry out a terrorist operation are not accused of terrorism?
Avatar tells the story of the natives of planet Pandora and shows the injustice meted out by the greedy invaders against the Navi people. Who would dare produce a movie about Palestine which tells the story of Arabs’ struggle for justice and freedom on planet earth and for salvation from the oppression of Israeli settlers and their biblical pretexts.
By Ramzy Baroud – Palestine Chronicle
When American historian Howard Zinn passed away recently, he left behind a legacy that redefined our relationship to history altogether.
Professor Zinn dared to challenge the way history was told and written. In fact he went as far as to defy the conventional construction of historical discourses through the pen of victor or of elites who earned the right of narration though their might, power and affluence.
This kind of history might be considered accurate insofar as it reflects a self-seeking and self-righteous interpretation of the world by a very small number of people. But it is also highly inaccurate when taking into account the vast majority of peoples everywhere.
The oppressor is the one who often articulates his relationship to the oppressed, the colonialist to the colonized, and the slave-master to the slave. The readings of such relationships are fairly predictable.
Even valiant histories that most of us embrace and welcome, such as those celebrating the legacy of human rights, equality and freedom left behind by Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and Nelson Mandela still tend to be selective at times. Martin Luther King’s vision might have prevailed, but some tend to limit their admiration to his ‘I have a dream’ speech. The civil rights hero was an ardent anti-war champion as well, but that is often relegated as non-essential history. Malcolm X is often dismissed altogether, despite the fact that his self-assertive words have reached the hearts and minds of millions of black people throughout the United States, and many more millions around the world. His speech was in fact so radical that it could not be ‘sanitized’ or reinterpreted in any controllable way. Mandela, the freedom fighter, is celebrated with endless accolades by the very foes that branded him a terrorist. Of course, his insistence on his people’s rights to armed struggle is not to be discussed. It is too flammable a subject to even mention at a time when anyone who dares wield a gun against the self-designated champions of ‘democracy’ gets automatically classified a terrorist.
Therefore, Zinn’s peoples’ histories of the United States and of the world have represented a milestone in historical narration.
As a Palestinian writer who is fond with such luminaries, I too felt the need to provide an alternative reading of history, in this case, Palestinian history. I envisioned, with much hesitation, a book that serves as a people’s history of Palestine. I felt that I have earned the right to present such a possible version of history, being the son of Palestinian refugees, who lost everything and were exiled to live dismal lives in a Gaza refugee camp. I am the descendant of ‘peasants’ – Fellahin – whose odyssey of pain, struggle, but also heroic resistance is constantly misrepresented, distorted, and at times overlooked altogether.
It was the death of my father (while under siege in Gaza) that finally compelled me to translate my yearning into a book. My Father was a Freedom Fighter, Gaza’s Untold Story offered a version of Palestinian history was not told by an Israeli narrator – sympathetic or otherwise – and neither was it an elitist account, as often presented by Palestinian writers. The idea was to give a human face to all the statistics, maps and figures.
History cannot be classified by good vs. bad, heroes vs. villains, moderates vs. extremists. No matter how wicked, bloody or despicable, history also tends to follow rational patterns, predictable courses. By understanding the rationale behind historical dialectics, one can achieve more than a simple understanding of what took place in the past; it also becomes possible to chart fairly reasonable understanding of what lies ahead.
Perhaps one of the worse aspects of today’s detached and alienating media is its production of history – and thus characterization of the present – as based on simple terminology. This gives the illusion of being informative, but actually manages to contribute very little to our understanding of the world at large.
Such oversimplifications are dangerous because they produce an erroneous understanding of the world, which in turn compels misguided actions.
For these reasons, it is incumbent upon us to try to discover alternative meanings and readings of history. To start, we could try offering historical perspectives which try to see the world from the viewpoint of the oppressed – the refugees, the fellahin who have been denied, amongst many rights, the right to tell their own story.
This view is not a sentimental one. Far from it. An elitist historical narrative is maybe the dominant one, but it is not always the elites who influence the course of history. History is also shaped by collective movements, actions and popular struggles. By denying this fact, one denies the ability of the collective to affect change. In the case of Palestinians, they are often presented as hapless multitudes, passive victims without a will of their own. This is of course a mistaken perception; the Palestinians’ conflict with Israel has lasted this long only because of their unwillingness to accept injustice, and their refusal to submit to oppression. Israel’s lethal weapons might have changed the landscape of Gaza and Palestine, but the will of Gazans and Palestinians are what have shaped the landscape of Palestine’s history.
Touring with My Father was a Freedom Fighter in South Africa, in a recent visit, was a most intense experience. It was in this country that freedom fighters once rose to fight oppression, challenging and eventually defeating Apartheid. My father, the refugee of Gaza has suddenly been accepted unconditionally by a people of a land thousands of miles away. The notion of ‘people’s history’ can be powerful because it extends beyond boundaries, and expands beyond ideologies and prejudices. In that narrative, Palestinians, South Africans, Native Americans and many others find themselves the sons and daughters of one collective history, one oppressive legacy, but also part of an active community of numerous freedom fighters, who dared to challenge and sometimes even change the face of history.
South Africa has; Palestine will.