Palestine Think Tank: celebrating our first year!
Gilad Atzmon and Mary Rizzo – Palestine Think Tank May 7, 2009
WRITTEN BY GILAD ATZMON
Back in January, at the peak of the Israeli sinister campaign in Gaza, I spoke to Mary on the phone. The situation was rather grave. We were both pretty depressed. Though it was rather obvious that Israel wouldn’t win that genocidal war, it was also evidently clear that Israel was not going to stop in its tracks. It had managed to detach itself from any recognisable notion of humanism. It wasn't concerned at all with its image around the world. As the Israelis were pouring WMDs on Gazans and the numbers of Palestinian casualties were mounting, we learned that 94% of Israeli Jews supported the genocidal tactics. As if this was not enough, we also learned that all over the world Jews were rallying in support of their criminal nation state. In Palestine Think Tank, like in many other solidarity sites and blogs, we were working around the clock disseminating the information and analysis. That morning when talking to Mary I complained to her that we were publishing papers everyday: news reports from Gaza, some illuminating critical reading of the situation, enlightening, refreshing political analysis, our posts were receiving thousands of entries and yet, I expressed my concern, we failed to make it to the main press. Mary was quick to correct me. “Gilad, you may fail to see it, we do not want to assimilate into the so-called media, we do not need them. From now on we are the media.”
That night I performed in Oxford. When I eventually made it home at 3 am, 2,000 fresh emails blocked my inbox. Many messages were congratulating me for being courageous, a few promised to poke my eyes out or break my fingers. I couldn’t grasp what really happened. I am used to Zionist abuse as much as I am accustomed to very empathic messages from humanists around the world. However, I had never seen it with such intensity. I failed to figure out what happened but I was too tired to engage in it all, I just closed my eyes.
In the morning Mary's text message woke me up at around 9 am. From the text I learned that she was apparently very proud and yet I failed to figure out why exactly. I called her. This is when I learned about the Turkish Prime Minister Tayep Erdogan citing a paper we published on PTT at the World Economic Forum.
I realised that Mary was right. We do not need the BBC, CNN, the Guardian or the New York Times. As far as the Palestinian discourse is concerned, we are indeed the media and we are not alone. We are there together with the people in Gaza, in the West Bank and with thousands of activists, bloggers, writers and free thinkers all around the world. We are together at the forefront in a bitter battle for a better world.
I’ve been writing about the conflict since 2001. In the early days I was very popular here in Britain. I was regarded as the ‘ultimate good Jew’. The Guardian commissioned me to write about Jazz. The BBC commissioned me to compose peaceful music. The so-called ‘Jewish anti-Zionists’ booked seats for my concerts weeks in advance, hoping that not before too long I would join them in manipulating the peace movement into submission. They obviously gambled on the very wrong horse.
It didn't happen. It didn’t take long before I realised the obvious: Israel was the Jewish state. I grasped also that Zionism was a continuation of Jewishness. I realised that Zionism and Jewish anti-Zionism are both supremacist ideologies for being racially orientated precepts. I comprehended that the war in Iraq served Israeli interests. Seemingly, in the leftist circles that were quick to embrace me, I couldn't say it all. Tragically and devastatingly, I found out that the left in Britain was handled as if it was a private Jewish tribal affair. It couldn’t suit me. I obviously did not want to operate as a Jew. Not even as a good Jew or a Marxist one. I left Israel for a reason. I did it because I decided, at least to try, to join humanity as an equal member. Being a ‘chosen one’ didn’t appeal to me and the more I looked into it, the concept of Chosen Socialists seemed to me lame on the verge of amusing.
I wanted to say what I think and feel. Yet, it was clear to me that Palestinian solidarity was far from being a free discourse. There were too many things that we couldn’t say or express.
I am a jazz musician. Not only do I believe in freedom, I have made freedom into my bread and butter. As much as I try to reinvent myself night after night in clubs and concert halls around the world, for me, to grasp the Israeli/Palestinian conflict is to elaborate on the issues courageously: to revise and reinvent myself intellectually and ethically rather than repeating a given mantra. For me to understand the conflict is to self-reflect. For me to criticise Jewish power is to primarily look in the mirror and bash the Jew in me. For me, to liberate Palestine is also to liberate the Palestinian solidarity discourse of Jewish hegemony.
This is exactly what we are trying to do in PTT. Sadly enough, for a resistance movement, we suffer a severe shortage of intellectual discourse. This is the outcome of years of devastating gatekeeping. I confess, I probably failed to liberate a single Palestinian so far but I feel that in PTT we have managed to introduce a free form of intellectual debate. We are not afraid of dealing with any given topic. Naturally, we deal with Jewish identity and power. We talk about global Zionism. We obviously refrain from any racial reference to Jewishness. This is quite easy, considering the fact that Jews are not a race.
The other day, I learned that PTT’s ranking within the Palestinian Authority is less than 5000, this means that we are one of the most read English language political magazines in Palestine. I know that in an Internet Café in a refugee camp in Lebanon, PTT is set as a default welcome page. This is what we’ve achieved in just one year. I am proud and I want to thank everyone who helped us to achieve it all. We had too many writers to mention. I would like to thank all the very many sites and blogs that circulate our materials. The adorable Tlaxcala who translate our materials, sometimes even before we post them. As far as the old-fashioned media is concerned, they are indeed in trouble. We have better analysts, better writers, dedicated readers, a network of supporters and translators but most important, the truth is in our side.
If Freedom is primarily freedom of spirit, we better just start there, the liberation of Palestine will follow soon.
A Year of Publishing Dangerously, WRITTEN BY MARY RIZZO
It was precisely a year ago today that Palestine Think Tank was launched. It was the result of three friends pooling together their resources to create something that was more than the sum of its parts. All of us already had popular outlets, but our objective was to create a new, larger, shared platform for ourselves and for others with the same goal we’ve already had as our priority: a Free Palestine.
It of course takes much more than one, a dozen or a thousand sites to make a Free Palestine. Just what it takes we all have yet to discover, but we are convinced that in order to get a free Palestine, the bare requisite is that those who face this issue are capable and willing before all else to Free our Minds.
This is why Palestine Think Tank has recruited some of the best writers and artists, and why some of the best writers and artists have approached Palestine Think Tank for publication. Some might consider us hardliners, in that we believe in resistance, open discourse, the rule of law as opposed to vague calls for peace. Yet choosing not to assume a moderate, all-encompassing line that might be pragmatic, was not a difficult choice at all. To be a “moderate” we see as dishonest. So we remain true to ourselves and our cause, and those who come to read, to write and to create for Palestine Think Tank know our principles because they share them. The beauty of Palestine Think Tank is that its space provides a platform for the widest possible range of perspectives and analysis so that the goal we all seek can have the widest possible support.
We don’t check ID cards at the door. There is no ethnic discrimination for participation. In fact, we find that limiting and exclusionist (when not outright exclusivist). Those who contribute can be Palestinian, Israeli, Jewish, Muslim, Christian, Atheist, Hindu, American, European, Asian, Arab, Persian, Male, Female, Young, Old, Marxist, Anarchist, Libertarian, Progressive, Islamist, Arab Nationalist, Palestinian Nationalist, Anti-Imperialist, etc. All we require of them in the way of being is that they share one opinion: That Zionism is Racism and Israel is a Racist State based on Discrimination of non-Jews. That’s the simple opinion that people who contribute here share, and the way that they analyse overcoming that state of affairs is what our platform is here to provide. We have a space for thoughtful discourse, wide-ranging and varied, but all contributors must share the view that the only way to free Palestine is to resist thought control, to express reasoned-out views and fight any attempts to distort facts and attempts to give false information. However, the main voice that matters to us is the voice of Somoud: the Arab Voice of Resistance, and our site reserves the main position for these people who we believe should rightfully dominate the discourse, as they are the subjects of Israeli and Imperialist oppression. The quantity of amazing texts that have filled that space is proof that our intuition was right. The Somoud posts are the heart and soul of Palestine Think Tank.
The variety of our contributions is reason to feel thankful to all the men and women who have been part of this adventure. At this moment, our site has approximately 950 posts by more than a hundred authors. More than half of the posts are by women, and three-quarters are written by non-Western writers. This may be an absolute record for sites regarding Palestine, and it most certainly is a record for Palestinian News Sites in English. Our articles generally originate at Palestine Think Tank, then they are reprinted, translated, republished and linked around the world. Our readers span the entire globe, with daily visits from an average of 50 countries, sometimes peaking at 100 different countries on given days.
We realise that this year has been especially tragic for the Palestinian people. The devastation that has been brought upon them by Israel, supported and justified by the Western Mainstream Media indicates to us that providing information and analysis alone is not enough.
In order to truly bring forth our desire of a free Palestine the only way forward is that we must support resistance.
What is resistance? We’d like to offer a brief reply. When responding to a post on a site that commented on several of our articles, there was a reference to Peace Initiatives. While it is true that all of us want peace and we all want it to be an immediate and lasting peace, it is also true that peace initiatives often do not have that kind of intention, vitiated at the source as they are by a misrepresentation of what peace actually means.
In part of the reply to that query, one of our editors wrote this brief summary:
Consider that there are 3 players in the Middle East: 1) the Israelis, 2) the Palestinians, 3) so-called internationals who are then subdivided into; a) “international community” i.e., the West; b) those who are not included in the West. Mind… I think that the West includes for instance the regimes of Jordan and Egypt, but not the national population, which are in part b.
If you are still following me, the needs of the groups are as follows: for 1) something they call security, which includes remaining a Jewish state; for 2) need for freedom and safety (different than security because they are undergoing an existential threat and need protection from their aggressor who does not allow them their rights. 3a) wants stability and security so that their economic interests will not be damaged; 3b) seeks justice along with safety, but does not have the power to determine achieving any of this without in some way receiving help from 3a.
So, what 1 (Israel) calls “peace” means: to be left in peace;
2 (Palestinians): peace is to survive and obtain rights according to laws that already exist but are not applied, so peace is dependent upon struggle first (resistance that will succeed);
3a (Western International Community): that Israel wins or at least that the resistance does not, because resistance is contagious;
3b (Non-Western Internationals): that the resistance wins, so that the power differences can be reduced. They believe prosperity for the region will follow.
So, in the light of this, all peace initiatives that have been drawn up, Oslo, Annapolis, Geneva, etc… do not take into account the needs of 2 and 3b, who are the underdogs whose rights are being violated. They are designed to dislodge resistance, therefore, to maintain or institutionalise inequality between people.
It is not that I’m an enemy of Israel per se, I am an enemy of racist Israel. If they tomorrow decided to allow the right of return, that would make me change my tune. It is not enough to claim they want peace and would stop the occupation or the settlements. This is a lie. If they wanted it, it would have been done years ago or they could do it overnight. It is not in their plans.
So, I support the resistance, it is supported by all international treaties against occupying powers. Israel militarily occupies Palestine and mentally occupies the rest of us by making us think that the way to peace is through an agreement. This won’t ever happen. Not after the recent war either… These forces are not seeking peace, just destruction, and they have to be treated as the war criminals they are.
There it is, in a nutshell, to Free Palestine requires analysis and resistance. We have to understand the mechanisms, then we have to follow that up with actions, which means to support the resistance fearlessly, because only the resistance will lead to freedom. We won’t always be right in our analysis, since we are limited humans, and our actions won’t always bring the effects we seek because we are powerless when divided, but the alternative is unacceptable. So here we are.
We wish to thank all of our dear friends who have been there with and for us through these trying times. It’s not always been an easy ride, and providing fresh, new, strong content is a task that requires time, energy and love, and we thank our friends, contributors, supporters and "fans" have generously "been there". In the comments section we will name people who have given a special contribution to our efforts, because they deserve public thanks for the support and time they have dedicated.
A special thanks to our very dear friend, the one and only Carlos Latuff for creating yet another unforgettable image!
Last updated 10/05/2009