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Thursday, February 17, 2011

Pity Activism

Sometimes you hear or read something that causes you to have one of those 'Ahah' moments.  When this happens, it is a moment of perfect clarity, like 'The Emperor's New Clothes', 'Eureka', the apple falling on Sir Isaac Newton's head...all rolled into one!

A blog-friend just sent me a piece written for a publication called 'The Australian' by a gentleman named Brendan O'Neill.

Here are a few excerpts... but short of cutting and pasting the whole thing here, I am really doing his excellent article a sorry disservice:

"... something important about the Palestine issue. In recent years it has moved from the realm of Arab radicalism, where Egyptians and other peoples frequently demanded the creation of a Palestinian state, and has instead become almost the exclusive property of Western middle-class radicals."


"[Pro-Palestinian activism] is not driven by future-oriented demands for economic development in a Palestinian homeland in the West Bank or Gaza. Instead it is driven by a view of Palestinians as the ultimate victims, the hapless and pathetic children of the new world order, who need kindly, wizened Westerners to protect them from Big Bad Israel."


"This is the politics of pity rather than solidarity. Groups of Western middle-class youth have taken Palestinian pity holidays in the West Bank and Gaza. They turn up and marvel at the dignity of this beautiful besieged people, like those wives of old Victorian colonialists who discovered they rather liked the African tribes they had been sent to Christianise."


"One pity-tripper wrote in the New Statesman about her experience living "under siege" in Bethlehem;"I'm beginning to understand what it must be like to be a Palestinian," she said.  That is the ultimate aim of these empathy tours, to have an experience that makes real the politics of victimhood that so many of these Western activists subscribe to."


"Palestinian pitiers have no time to think about the inconvenient fact that Hamas is an intolerant political entity that has no time for gay rights or women's equality. Instead, everything gets reduced to a Narnia-style story of wicked witches v happy fauns, because this is ultimately about providing vacuous-feeling Westerners with some much-needed momentum in their lives, not about untangling a messy political reality."

I've really quoted too much as it is,and haven't even scratched the surface of this piece's perfectly crystallized brilliance.

Go read it in its entirety.

Posted by David Bogner on February 17, 2011 | Permalink


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Pity Activism

I like that - it describes aptly the loophole we Westerners have found to cling to our supremacy of long past colonial days.

As best I know even back then there were, amidst all the oppression, lots of groups who wanted to elevate, educate, enlighten the poor needy natives.

Posted by: Silke | Feb 17, 2011 1:16:57 PM

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