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On Normalization, Issues of Freedom and Democracy

On Normalization, Issues of Freedom and Democracy

Monday, 4 January, 2021 - 12:00

The Arab revolutions were not unwise in treating normalization and peace with Israel as relatively secondary. They clung to the Palestinian people’s rights and their cause's righteousness, but they did not shut the door to peace and normalization or open it. They did not claim normalization was a gateway to freedom and democracy nor that it was deadly to freedom and democracy.


In that they gave freedom primacy, the revolutions’ priorities appeared to be different. This divergence places freedom and democracy in a different category than normalization, whether it is viewed negatively or positively.


In other words, repression can be exercised and reinforced with or without normalization.


Freedom and democracy have been defeated for reasons that have nothing to do with normalization or the lack thereof. From this angle, the critical issues that warrant our attention regard the fabric of societies, kinship structures, the positions of armies, cities, the bourgeoisie, and the outside world.


However, while normalizing and non-normalization are practically equivalent in terms of their limited impact on the fates of freedom and democracy, they are not theoretical equals: indeed, not normalizing has a quality that normalization does not possess. In its essence, its finest manifestation, it renders freedom secondary. It postpones freedom if not belittles it vis-a-vis “the primary contradiction” or the famous sound of battle that no sound rises above. In the fight against normalization, armed confrontation and the struggle must take precedence over all civilian concerns. The attempts at reconciling them are merely articles and opinions negated by the slightest contact with reality.


In this sense, normalization is a political position and calculation that one may or may not agree with. Anti-normalization, with the struggle and resistance that come with it, is a sacrosanct and salvational position. Whoever deviates from it is a traitor. This is not just axis of resistance dogma. It is the reality of the situation, and its inconsistency with democracy cannot be resolved with words and desires: What if, for example, popular will, as expressed within a democratic system, supported normalization, violated the salvational and the sacrosanct?


This is why it is not insignificant that the anti-normalization zealots are fanatically enthusiastic about armies, the instrument of war against Israel that are, however, an instrument for tyrannizing citizens at the same time. These fanatics had the whole world hearing their screams when the Iraqi army was dissolved in 2003. However, though the American solution did not prove an absolute cure, this army made it apparent in 2014, when ISIS occupied the city of Mosul, that it is a nonentity. These same fanatics are the “courageous” Syrian army’s most fervent supporters. The full force of this army was directed only against its people. Defending the two armies’ primary pretext was the need to “confront Israel.”


There is an abundance of arguments that demonstrate the weakness of normalization’s link with repression, without this necessarily implying that those who normalize are not repressive. Arguments for the strength of the connection between anti-normalization and repression abound. Anwar Sadat, a normalizer, was repressive, but his repression was a drop in the sea of that seen during the reign of Nasser, a “resistor.” The Syrian regime is the most brutal and tyrannical in the Arab world, and it is also the most hostile to normalization.


On the other hand, the Palestinian example, unfortunately, does not bridge this gap. Democracy has never been on the agenda of the leaders who have successively represented the Palestinian cause. This is true for Amin al-Husseini, Ahmad Hilmi, Ahmad al-Shuqiri, and Yasser Arafat, as well as George Habash, Nayef Hawatmeh, Ahmad Yassin, Khaled Meshaal, Ismail Haniyeh, and Mahmoud Abbas. There is no single deviation from this norm, despite the variety of ideologies, times, and experiences. We have become like the faithful who claim: they have all failed to implement the religion appropriately. From the PLO to all the other factions, the Palestinian revolution’s institutions have not presented us with an example to support this link with freedom and democracy. Regarding issues in neighboring countries, the positions that least manifested freedom and democracy were always chosen. In Lebanon, weapons and armaments were the means of choice, which contributed to crushing a parliamentary system that had had the capacity to develop and reform. In Syria, Assad was chosen over his people. In Iraq, Saddam Hussein and his wars were chosen. In Lebanon, Hezbollah, which exterminated the Palestinian resistance’s last outposts, was not only forgiven for its actions, all hearts and minds unanimously embraced it. “Coincidences” recurred until they became “law.”


These choices did not entrench the rift between the Palestinian cause and its undoubted righteousness and freedom and democracy questions. Rather, they impoverished the cause itself and weakened its ties to everything invigorated outside of its immediate surroundings, and indeed within them as well. Little by little, the cause became a spirit without tangible a physical form to embody. There is plenty of room for doubt in souls that are not embodied and refrain, time after time, from being manifested in any tangible and concrete form.


Concerning all of this, normalization is irrelevant. The concern is the inflation of this headline is a consequence of the defeats of the revolutions that tried to change the headlines and the regression to this antiquated hot air.


But the “masses” whom those who oppose normalization claimed would rise and topple it did not show up. They didn’t make an appearance in large or small countries, nor did they do so in rich or poor countries. Some of those opposed have replaced the hopelessly disappointing “masses” with Joe Biden!


Once, again, this development did not compel a revision or a reformulation outside the two lowly phrases that we take out of the timeworn closet: in times of scarcity, it is said that “the rulers have worn the masses down into complacency”. In times of abundance, it is claimed that “the rulers bribed the masses, who took the bribe.”


The matter has come to warrant contemplation, revision, and taking some distance from sacrosanct sentiments that are immune to the effects of the passage of time.


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