Workshop on the book “Palestine: Homeland for Sale” (November 2011)

In early November 2011, Mada al-Carmel held a workshop on the book "Palestine: Homeland for Sale", by the researcher Dr. Khalil Nakhleh. The book was recently published in Arabic by the Rosa Luxemburg Institute in Ramallah.

In her opening comments for the workshop, Janan Abdu, Mada al-Carmel’s event coordinator, said, “The questions posed in the book deal with the barriers to liberating development, and to the connection between Palestinian capital, funding policy, colonialization, and growth. Palestinian nonprofit and civil-society organizations deal with these issues, which greatly affect their activities.” Abdu also noted, “The book does not only raise these questions; it provides answers and even constructs a theory that explains these barriers. The book presents a point of view that we might agree with, or agree with in part, or completely disagree with. The purpose of the workshop is to generate discussion and dialogue on this important issue.”

In his critique of the book, Mtanes Shihadeh, a doctoral student and research associate at Mada al-Carmel, said, “The book contests the claim of development in Palestine — a claim the donor states and institutions have not ceased to make since the signing of the Oslo Accords — and deals with the consequences of the flow of foreign ‘political’ capital on the Palestinian question, and its contradiction with the concept of ‘liberating development’ which a people under occupation needs.” Shihadeh pointed out that “the book attributes excessive weight to the sins of the capital at the expense of the awareness that economic development (regardless of type, purpose, or nature) is not possible under occupation and colonialist rule. The principal issue is the occupation, more so than the question of the evil intentions and exploitation of Palestinian capital, whether from the diaspora or from local Palestinians, or from the Palestinian political establishment. The chapters of the book, along with the study cases discussed by the author, produce a set of priorities, and the problem lies in the division of functions between the government and monopolist companies. If this approach were to change, liberating economic development — or, as the author calls it, ‘people-based liberating development’ — would be possible.

Dr. Ismail Nashef, a researcher and lecturer at Ben Gurion University, noted the place of the book and the writer in Palestinian anthropologic analysis. Nashef notes, “The book summarizes a life journey. It comprises a brief description of the process of attaining self-awareness and self-criticism and contains a great deal of confession of the Christian-Catholic kind. Writing the book required much courage. In making the diagnosis and self-examination, the book contributes to disseminating a great legacy and presents the collective situation in its struggle against colonialism.” Nashef added, “What bothers the author is not profit making but rather corruption. The book makes a serious effort to map the particulars relating to the many faces of the elite class and links the movement of capital with the knowledge and the ideology.” According to Nashef, the recommendations made by the author “are built on a firm ethical foundation and Gramscian awareness of the class to which the author belongs. He criticized the author’s acceptance of returning to the 1967 borders and of the PLO tradition, pointing out that “the national ideology is derived from colonialism, and the two are an aspect of the capitalist regime.”

In response, Dr. Khalil Nakhla said that, in writing the book, he wanted to deal with the nature of Palestinian society and the way to bring about radical change in the society. He noted that his theoretical approach drew on the tradition of leftist criticism and not from classic Marxist analysis. He said, “We are contributing to an attempt to redraw the essence of Palestine, and to channel it to a context that does not focus only on neo-liberal economics.” Nakhla added, “Stopping at the 1967 borders is based on pragmatic reasons. . . I assume that those patterns continue to exist here, within the 1948 borders. What is worrisome is the cooperation between Palestinian capital and the Palestinian elites that the Oslo Accords created. What is currently called a state does not amount to a large economic society. Today there is no need for military occupation, since a small group of people is managing the world.”