The Narrative of Perpetual Palestinian Victimhood

At that point formerly oppressed groups develop what I call bad faith. Bad faith is when you come into freedom, you are humiliated and you say, "Well you know the real truth is I am not free.  Racism still exists.  Zionism is my problem.  The State of Israel is my problem.  That is why I am so far behind and that is why I cannot get ahead."

You develop a culture grounded in bad faith where you insist that you are less free than you really are.  Islamic extremism is the stunning example of this phenomenon.  "I have to go on jihad because I am fighting for my freedom."  Well you already have your freedom.  You could stay home and study.  You could do something constructive.  But "No, I cannot do that because that makes me feel bad about myself."  So I live in a world of extremism and dictators.

This is not unique to the Middle East.  In black America we had exactly the same thing.  After we got the civil rights bill and this greater degree of freedom, then all of a sudden we hear the words "black power."  Then all of a sudden we have the Black Panthers.  Then we have this militancy, this picking up of the gun because we feel bad about ourselves.  We feel uncompetitive and this becomes our compensation.  It is a common pattern among groups that felt abandoned when they became free.

This is the real story of the Palestinians and of the Middle East.  They will never be reached by reason until they are somehow able to get beyond bad faith, to get beyond this sort of poetic truth that they are the perennial victims of an aggressive and racist Israeli nation.

Challenging their narrative with this explanation will enable us to be more effective.  Until now, we have constantly used facts and reason and have not progressed.

Durban is a perfect example of bad faith because Durban is way of saying Israelis are racist and they are our problem.  Durban really is a way of saying I am not free.  I am still a victim.  That is the real purpose of Durban.  The Palestinian unilateral claim for recognition from the UN is also a perfect example of bad faith.  If Palestinians proceed to the Security Council, they will very likely be turned down, and will respond by saying: "I told you we were victims.  I told you the West is racist," and so on.  It refuels the same sad identity.

The irony and the tragedy of all this is that it keeps these groups in a bubble where they never encounter or deal with the truth.  This becomes a second oppression for all these groups.  They have been oppressed once, now they are free and yet they create a poetic truth that then oppresses them all over again.

How are you going to have good faith if you are raised being told that the society in which you are trying to compete is against you, is racist?  It is always the Palestinians who suffer, and will continue to suffer, because all of their energy is going into the avoidance of their situation rather than into being challenged by it and facing into it.

The strength of our argument is that it gives the Palestinians a way out.  Development is the way out.  The West can help you to compete.  It may take a little while.  But the alternative is a cycle of violence and hatred and poetic truths about constant victimhood.

The pattern of bad faith in certain places comes to embrace a kind of ethic of death.  As Osama bin Laden claimed:  in the West, you are all afraid of death, but we love death.  Why would you love death?  If you are not afraid of death then you are aggrandized;  all of a sudden you are a big man. You are not a little, recently freed, inferior.  Instead, you are somebody who manages, who conquers his world, who has power.  For terrorism is power, the power of the gun.  This poetic truth leads to a terrible, inconceivable fascination with death and violence and guns and bombs.  It consumes a whole part of the world every single day – rather than the boring things that good faith requires, like going to school, raising your children, inventing software for instance, making money.

This is the way the narrative must be retold.