Palestinianism as the antithesis to Neutralism

Always, always, always be on the side of the oppressed.

This should be a non-negotiable, and a non-debatable fundamental principle that contains within it everything that characterizes a moral human being. There should be no “buts,” “ifs” and “what abouts,” because these indicate a failure to comprehend what it means to be against tyranny and oppression. And if we recognize this as a failure, and if we know its implications, then we should not go out of our way to convince ourselves this is just a result of unfortunate and uncontrollable political and strategic imperatives. And I say this because these so-called political and strategic imperatives should not blind us from fundamental moral principles. In any situation and context, these imperatives mean nothing if they were to be assumed at the expense of the suffering of another people.

This has been the principle that we, as Palestinians, have always used to advance our cause. We, as a nation that was dispossessed and ethnically cleansed, never accepted the narrative proposed by the Zionists and their supporters in Washington and London. We have always rejected the premise that because the Jews were subject to one of the most gruesome of genocides, this entitles a group that belongs to political Zionism to demand retribution at our expense. We have always rejected the Zionist idea that only through the colonization of Palestine, the Jews can attain a some sort of justice. We have rejected these narratives primarily because they are at best amoral, and based purely upon disingenuous political calculations designed in Europe.

Furthermore, we have always rejected any imposition of solutions from outside; we have always maintained that we are the owners of our cause, and the owners of our destiny. And that no human can strip us from this ownership.

With this knowledge, and with this foundation, our parents and grandparents started the Palestinian revolution: a revolution that has at its core a belief that liberation can only be attained when our strategies are not divorced from morality. We maintained over and again that we can never advocate for our cause unless we have a strong moral understanding that irrespective of what international opinion is, irrespective of political and military adversities that we may face, we will not forfeit fundamental principles that include the return of all the Palestinians to their lands without any conditions, the necessity to never forget our attachment to the entire land of historic Palestine, and the importance of pursuing our objectives by any means necessary and that includes but not restricted to armed resistance.

We have also rejected the notion of neutrality. The world tried to impose it upon us. They said that in order for us to move forward, the international community must remain neutral (which we understood as maintaining a facade of neutrality). They also said that they cannot be an objective arbiter in a bloody conflict if they took the side of one party over the other. To them geopolitics demands neutrality in a very complex historical conflict. But we rejected all these claims and arguments, and we demanded that the world take our side. We argued over and again that by succumbing to neutrality, one has internalized in his mind a false sense of objectivity that masks the reality of him siding with the oppressor. We said that being neutral means that one is effectively turning a blind to aggression, and that he is relegating it to an issue of mere political disagreement. We argued that in bloody conflicts, there is no neutrality, you are either with the aggressor or the victim.

And from this position, the solidarity movement in the West extracts its strength. So when we ask corporations, churches, institutions, universities, unions and others to boycott the Zionist entity, and to divest from any type of investment that strengthens the occupation of Palestine, we are effectively asking them to remove this mask of neutrality, and take a political position and pick a side: you are either a supporter or an opponent of Zionist aggression. When we walk into university classrooms, union meetings, church congregations wearing the Palestinian Kufiyyeh, we are not only announcing to the spectator that we have taken a political position, and that this position is in support of the aspirations of the Palestinian people, but we are also demanding from him to take a similar strong position and announce it to other people.

Palestinianism is antithetical to any notion of neutrality. The Palestinians were never neutral and will never be neutral. The essence of Palestinianism demands from those who agree to it as being a motivating force for good that they take a strong stance against oppression no matter who commits it and wherever it is committed. The essence of Palestinianism demands that we give priority to moral imperatives over any consideration of strategy or pragmatism. And the essence of Palestinianism rejects the lending hand of a regime that does not hesitate to kill the people it claims to govern.

Having said that, we must not confuse neutrality for the sake of survival with neutrality as a pre-conceived and ill-advised strategy to absolve ourselves from any moral responsibility towards the people of Syria. As it is becoming clear day after day, the people of Yarmouk have always been and will always be a people of principle. Their assumption of neutrality in the early stages of the revolution was a direct result of their knowledge that their survival as a dispossessed people depends on it. They were neutral because they knew full well that because of the conditions wherein they live, they are incapable of resisting an inevitable collective punishment which, as we saw, has included deliberate starvation and the regular and indiscriminate shelling of civilian bases.

And now thanks to the much appreciated and meticulous work of activists like Nidal Bitari and others, we know that the camp is in its current predicament due to a premeditated attempt by the regime’s clients – the PFLP-GC, Fatah El-Intifada and El-Sa’eqa – to provoke the FSA and other militants in order to use that as a pretext to impose upon the camp policies that can only be described as genocidal. We have this information at our disposal, we have the means of disseminating this information, and we have the historical experience that allows to understand and contextualize this information. Yet, we continue to hide behind the veil of neutrality, and by that we are not only forgetting what it means to be a steadfast, persevere and strong Palestinian, but we are also betraying our Palestinian and Syrian brothers and sisters in Yarmouk and all of Syria.

In the age of information, neutrality is complicity. The Yarmoukians never considered themselves as being disconnected from the revolution, because they know full well that, Yarmouk, as the capital of the Palestinian revolution, cannot be in any way, shape or form be separate from the Syrian revolution. However, and to their misfortune, their brothers and sisters in the West do not seem to be prepared to accept their narrative and continue to design unintelligible arguments to justify their ill-conceived neutrality.


-Omar Chaaban is a Palestinian-Canadian writer based in Vancouver. He blogs here.


  1. It is most important to remember that the Zionist master plan to rid Palestine of its indigenous Canaanite/Arab Palestinian inhabitants and create therein an exclusionary expansionary Jewish state was formulated in 1897, during the first Zionist Congress in Basel, Switzerland, more than three decades before the Nazi instigated Holocaust began.

    For the record, Jews were a small minority in Palestine in 1897. At the time of the Basel Congress 95 per cent of the population of Palestine was Arab and 99 per cent of its land was Arab owned.

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