Mission & Name
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Nakhwa Without Borders:
Gaza and the End of
By Ramzy Baroud
Al-Jazeerah, CCUN, September 29, 2014
On its own the Arabic
word al-Nakhwa, means “gallantry.” Combined with the word “al-Arabiya” -
“Arab gallantry” - the term becomes loaded with meanings, cultural and even
political implications and subtext. But what is one to make of “Arab
gallantry” during and after Israel’s most brutal war on Gaza between 8 July
and 26 August which killed 2,163 Palestinians and wounded over 11,000 more?
Is this the end of Arab Nakhwa? Did it even ever exist?
a Palestinian Gaza refugee from a simple peasantry background, I was raised
to believe that al-Nakhwa was an essential component of one’s Arab identity.
Together with al-Rojoula - “manhood/fortitude/heroism” - al-Karm -
“generosity” - al-Karama - “dignity” - and al-Sharaf - “honour” - were all
indispensable tenants in the character of any upright person. The
alternative is unthinkably shameful.
Thus, it is no wonder that
Palestinian national songs, and the slogans for successive rebellious
generations in Palestine have borrowed heavily from such terminology. It was
al-Nakhwa that compelled Gaza to rise in solidarity with the victims of
al-Aqsa Mosque clashes in 2000, which ushered in the painful years of the
Second Palestinian Uprising (2000-2005). It was al-Karama (dignity) that
forced Gaza to the streets to protest the killing of four Palestinian cheap
labourers by an Israeli truck driver, leading to the
First Palestinian Uprising (1987-1993). It was al-Sharaf (honour) that
made Gazans fight like warriors of ancient legends to prevent Israeli troops
from taking over the impoverished and besieged Gaza Strip in the most recent
But the lack of reactions on Arab streets, - Perhaps Arab
societies are too consumed fighting for their own honour and dignity? - and
the near complete silence by many Arab governments as Israel savaged Gaza
civilians, forces one to question present Arab gallantry altogether.
for Gaza across the world in a collective global action unprecedented
since the US war in Iraq in 2003. South American countries led the way, with
some governments turning words into unparalleled action, not fearing western
media slander or US government reprisals. Few Arab countries even came close
to what the majority Christian
Latin American countries like
Ecuador have done to show solidarity with Gaza.
And when a
ceasefire was declared on 26 August, it became impossible for Israeli or
western media to argue in earnest that Israel had won “Operation
Protective Edge.” They tried, but the closest they managed to argue was that
there were no winners. Others acknowledged that
Gaza had won the war by defeating every war objective laid out by
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
although certainly dishonourable, some Arab journalists who stayed largely
quiet as the Palestinian death toll in Gaza grew rapidly, went on a well-organised
crusade. While they shed crocodile tears for Gaza’s children, they insisted
that Gaza lost, strengthening Netanyahu’s
desperate narrative that his war had achieved its objectives. The
Gaza-didn’t-win line was repeated by many well-paid journalists and
commentators as to defeat the prevailing notion that resistance was not
futile. For them, it seems that Palestinians need to accept their role in
the ongoing Arab drama of being perpetual victims, and nothing more. A
strong Palestinian, practically and conceptually, is the antithesis to the
dominant line of the current Arab political script that is predicated on
strong rulers and weak nations. Since the Palestinian Nakba (Catastrophe),
the Palestinian is only idealised as a hero in poetry and official text, but
an eternal casualty in everyday life.
Some of these
pseudo-intellectuals didn’t even muster enough Nakhwa to extol Gaza on its
resistance and the sheer enormity of its sacrifices. Most of Gaza’s
resistance fighters (who mostly come from Gaza’s poor refugee classes)
reportedly fasted (no food or water from dawn to dusk) as they fought
throughout the month of Ramadan. Many would break the fast on few dates, if
any. Compare this to the endless supplies of food, and everything else that
remained available in abundance to invading Israeli troops. Even if these
commentators sincerely rejected the “Gaza victory” narrative, wasn’t the
sheer fortitude of these men and women deserving of a mere
acknowledgement of a few words written by the well-fed “intellectuals”
operating from faraway hotel lobbies in rich Arab capitals?
the introduction of pan-Arab satellite television news networks, the term
“Arab gallantry” was brought into question endless times. In fact, “Iyna al-Nakhwa
al-Arabiay?” - where is the Arab gallantry?’ - was perhaps the most
oft-repeated question raised by ordinary Arab callers taking part in
television political debates. The question was uttered mostly in the
Palestinian context, but, in the last decade also in the cases of Iraq and
There is no definite answer as of yet, but it is not that
Arab gallantry is in abundance within ruling Palestinian classes either.
Just days following the ceasefire, the leaders of the Ramallah
unleashed verbal attacks against the
Hamas government over money, salary and phony coup attempts. For
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, per the
leaked protocol of his meeting with Hamas’ Khaled Meshaal in Doha, the
war in Gaza seemed a secondary matter, as the 80-year-old was overwhelmed by
some paranoia that everyone was conspiring against him. His Prime Minister
Rami Hamdallah, who behaved as if his “premiership” didn’t include Gaza
during the war, returned to action as soon as the ceasefire announcement was
His government didn’t feel any particular urgency to pay salaries of
Gaza employees who were hired by the previous Gaza government.
if things couldn’t get any worse, a
leaked letter provided to French lawyers by the deputy prosecutor of the
International Criminal Court (ICC) showed that Abbas’ government actually
blocked a Palestinian application to the ICC that is aimed at trying Israeli
government and military leaders for alleged war crimes. Here the discussion
over gallantry, dignity and honour ends, and a whole different set of
The shameful factionalism has reached a point
Fatah officials are accusing the former Gaza government for being
responsible for the loss of lives among Gaza refugees as they make desperate
attempts to escape the strip towards Europe atop crowded boats.
Agenda-driven Arab commentators are joining in, some
blaming both sides equally, as if those who resisted are equal to those
Embattled Netanyahu is getting a badly needed break
as Palestinian officials in Ramallah and some Arab media commentators are
circuitously blaming Gaza for Israel’s own wars and war crimes. While
Palestinians continue to gaze at the rubble of their destroyed lives in
receive little support and solidarity from their Arab neighbours, or
from their won “brethren” in Ramallah.
When Arab media commentators
laud Netanyahu for killing Palestinians in Gaza and a
UN spokesman weeps on the air, crying for Gaza’s victims, one is forced
to question old beliefs about one’s own supposed exceptionalism. It has
turned out that Nakhwa has no borders, and can extend from Bolivia to Sir
Lanka, and from South Africa to Norway.
- Ramzy Baroud is a PhD
scholar in People's History at the University of Exeter. He is the Managing
Editor of Middle East Eye. Baroud is an internationally-syndicated
columnist, a media consultant, an author and the founder of
PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is My Father Was a Freedom Fighter:
Gaza’s Untold Story (Pluto Press, London).
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