On my recent “radicalisation”

I have been experiencing some negative feedback on my blog, and from other people more generally, who have suggested that I have become “radicalised” by my time here. I find the use of this word – and the implication that I can no longer be objective – to be deeply troubling, so have responded to some of these criticisms here.

The statement below was written on the blog of another girl who is on the ICS program with me, and whilst she doesn’t name me directly I am aware that this is directed at me as I have discussed these issues many times with my fellow volunteers.

“As for seeing things from the other side, some group members here have become radicalized by the things we have seen and heard here. They have attended protests despite this putting our organizations’ future in Palestine in jeopardy. They have become blinded by the Palestinian’s suffering and seem unable to see things from the Israeli point of view or even objectively. I however am determined to remember that I am only beginning to understand the conflict and the people involved. Ofc I am more on the Palestinian side but I won’t let that mean I am anti-Israel, I just want to be pro-peace. I am an international observer here after all and a development worker not a political activist. And at the end of the day if we let hatred creep into our judgment then what hope is there that Palestinians and Israelis will overcome their hatred to create a last peaceful resolution?”

My response follows, albeit slightly edited for the purpose of clarity for readers of my blog:

Firstly, I’d be very careful with your use of language – “radicalisation” connotes “extremism”, and my actions do not come anywhere near that of an “extremist”. Try going to the settlements in Hebron and you will understand what “radical” and “extreme” really mean. I have not been radicalised nor brainwashed, though I have admittedly taken a stronger stance based on the evidence put in front of me over the last three months.

I feel very “extremely” passionately about the Palestinian struggle, and a frustration with my own development project (and international development in general) has meant that attending protests and demonstrations and standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Palestinians in solidarity has been the most that I can offer here. I had a problem with the role of international development before I even arrived in Palestine, but was still intrigued to see what it entailed. There is no doubting that NGOs do great work to improve the lives of people on the ground here, but are they really going to change the political situation which makes these NGOs a necessity? If they were then the billions that has been thrown at international development over the years would have changed the world – and Palestine – far more dramatically than it has thus far.

Your suggestion that I do not look at this situation objectively and that I have let hatred creep into my judgement is simply incorrect. Out of all of our ICS group, I am in fact the only one who has actually stayed with Israelis in both Haifa and Tel Aviv, speaking to them at length about their stance on the situation here and forming my own judgements and strengthening my own arguments accordingly. I also work with Israeli activists who are doing brilliant work here in the OPTs. I am from a part of North West London where there is a strong Jewish community, and have been brought up experiencing the best of Jewish cultural traditions. I believe more than anyone that people are a product of their environment, and I find it incredibly important to understand the environment that has bred political Zionism so that it can be combated in the most effective ways possible.

Furthermore, neither do I understand nor accept the position of “observer”. To return to a quote that I will repeat until time immemorial on this blog, “To wash one’s hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless means to side with the powerful, not to be neutral”. I believe that it is imperative that the human rights violations that are committed against Palestinians are observed and documented – but in order to instigate real change, not simply as an act of observation in itself. Palestine may be a litmus test for the unequal power relations which oppress so many people in our global society today, but the Palestinian people are not lab rats to be observed – this is not war tourism, and an observation of the situation here must have a final goal. Being fortunate enough to have been given the chance to visit Palestine, it is the responsibility of internationals to pressure our own governments to end compliance with the Israeli government’s apartheid policies, and incite and inspire global movements in solidarity with the Palestinian people.

I will not accept people who define themselves as “pro-peace” as if to suggest that there are people who do not want a peaceful resolution to the situation here. I believe that there are three basic demands that need to be met in any resolution to this situation – end of occupation, end of apartheid and right of return for refugees. If these ideas are “radical” in your eyes then so be it, but everything I have tried to do and learn about since I have been here has been a means to an end of achieving those goals. If you think that’s what NGOs are trying to do then you are deluded. They are alleviating the suffering which people experience as a result of these conditions, and that is an incredibly important task, but are doing very little to change the political situation which make this suffering never ending.

You have chosen your path through international development as you feel it is the right thing to do, but do not criticize the way that I have chosen to be part of the Palestinian struggle nor the motivations for my actions. I have affected perhaps only a small ripple in my time here, and have learnt far more than I have been able to offer, but with currently over 2000 hits on my blog this is something I am genuinely proud of as I believe people read this blog knowing that the things I am documenting have been based on my personal experience as a human being, relating to the pain and suffering of other human beings.

Lowkey’s new album has become my sonic Bible, and I will finish with these lyrics from Long Live Palestine  as it summarizes my feelings more succinctly than I could ever hope to do so…

“It’s not simply a question of differing views, / Forget emotions, this is fact, / what I spit is the truth… Its your choice what you do with this message, / Don’t get it confused; I view this from a truly human perspective…

…Words can never ever explain the raw tragedy, / It’s not a war they’re just murdering more rapidly, / We are automatically supporting pure savagery, / Imagine how you’d feel if this was your family!”

حرر فلسطين حرة!


18 thoughts on “On my recent “radicalisation”

  1. “some group members here have become radicalized by the things we have seen and heard here. They have attended protests despite this putting our organizations’ future in Palestine in jeopardy”… How is protesting a form of radicalization? Are the Palestinians who protest every Friday, as they have done for years, also “radical”? Keep doing what you’re doing riggers, not everyone will understand it, but doesn’t mean its wrong 🙂 Hurré Hurré Filastine!

  2. Well written Holly, I think this answers perfectly the implication that in some way protesting against something is always an extreme thing to do, of course it is not. Quite often when someone is as commited as you are about a subject, it incites anger and envy in people who hold similar views but can’t or won’t put themselves on the line. As long as a person continues to meet with and discuss with people who hold different beliefs or views from their own, I don’t see how they can be called extreme. It is when a person refuses to listen to, or involve themselves in any other point of view and isolates themselves from anyone different from them, that they run the risk of becoming extreme. Talking should always be the first and preferred option to solve political/cultural and religious situations,but as we all know, the world dosent talk enough and protesting is often the only way people can show their beliefs and plight to the rest of the world. Take care and see you soon

  3. This lady doth protest (far) too much.
    You are too emotionally heated to be objective; that is neither truthful not helpful, and in time you will realize that.
    Criticism is not a personal attack,(although you appear to view it as such), but an observation of your assertions; you are not always right, and others are not always wrong.
    You write fluently, but not factually, with far too much emotion, and with no or little respect for an alternative point of view.
    If you want to be a writer, you will have to learn to temper opinion with objectivity, and emotion with effective register.
    I admire your passion, but not the purple prose; it makes you less effective, and reads as teenage rabble-rousing.
    If you want to rise above that, and do yourself and your newly-chosen cause justice, you may need to express a little objectivity and a lot less preferred (but ultimately flawed) opinion.
    Because you have been in situ a few months, do not ever make the mistake of thinking you truly understand this multi-stranded, complex and difficult situation.

    • Em, i adamantly disagree. this is a brilliant post and holly is a very effective writer.

      also, it is not good enough to simply assert someone is being untruthful or not factually correct giving no examples or what you’re referencing. iow, you have not argued your case, you’ve simply relied on typical ad hominem crutch-like argument with a little patronizing “some day you’ll learn” parental crap thrown in for good effect. btw, aside from providing actual evidence holly is not being factual, would you mind spicing up your writing with some guts or passion. you’re writing is a bore. ciao

      • Annie – not being privy to the context in which this post was made, I couldn’t possibly say what is factual content herein or not.
        However, I’m writing not to dispute the veracity of the blog, but to point out that your criticisms seem (to me at least) to be either misguided or entirely inaccurate.
        As I percieve, Holly’s post seems to be a backlash against the moniker ‘radicalisation’, and it explains her rationale behind refuting it.
        Rationale is inherently subjective, as it is personal to the individual.
        Em’s post is clearly referring to the overuse of emotional subjectivity, and the evident lack of objectivity displayed above. It doesn’t substantiate this claim because only a cretin would require further explanation about the partisan nature of the post – Holly says so much herself.
        Despite your accusation of ‘ad-hominem’ attacks, I fail to detect a single passage which makes reference to her character and not her prose. It amuses me that you find it patronising that someone with more experience of life might know more than you – the cognitive dissonance must be awful.
        Furthermore, a Em’s post is not made to be attractive in a literary sense – it proffers constructive criticisms that shed light on issues to be addressed.

        What you seem to define as ‘spice’ is superfluously aggressive writing. If that’s the case then I’d rather remain bland and civlised, instead of leaving my manners at the wayside, solely in order to entertain a degenerate such as yourself.

    • Em
      It’s clear that you have another agenda, so why don’t you take it somewhere else?

      The situation you claim complex is not it’s very simple:
      The Palestinian people have had their land and resources stolen from them by another people of mainly European extraction. These people took the country at gunpoint and continue to do so.

      • Arthur,
        being half-Palestinian myself, (whose grandfather originally hailed from Haifa), I can assure you that I am most certainly pro-Palestinian. This being the case however, I would not deign to assert that the Arab-Israeli conflict is as simple as you would have us believe – for over 60 years the greatest diplomatic minds in the world have struggled to achieve a lasting solution.
        I would assert that such an assumption is more indicative of your intelligence (or evident lack thereof) than of the factual reconditeness of the situation.
        In future, please accompany unsubstantiated accusations with an explanation of why you have percieved her ‘hidden agenda’ with such clarity.

  4. First off, kol hakavod. I have a lot of respect for you and what you are doing. I’m very glad to have come across your blog and your recent recount of Mustafa’s funeral was shocking, painful, and very very sad for me. I don’t see you as a radical, but yes – someone who is very passionate, concerned, and wants very badly to make a difference. I think you going out there – to the protests and seeing things first hand (shoulder to shoulder) is exactly what more people should be doing, including myself. I am very glad to read that you’ve been to places in Israel as well and engaged in discussion with Israelis. I personally think this is a very important element. I live in Jaffa and came to Israel on a coexistence volunteer program and haven’t left since. I’ve been to Hebron, so I know exactly what you are saying when you speak of real extremism and intense radicalism. I agree that it is very hard to be quiet and removed once you visit a place like that. I also believe that one visit isn’t enough, a weeks stay isn’t enough, 6 months isn’t enough, and for me … a whole lifetime will never been enough to truly understand all the complicated texture to the conflict here. I agree that you should never be or feel silenced. However, from 2 years of living on the other side of the wall from you, I also see that there are many different sides, personal stories, histories, anomalies, etc, so I don’t believe there is one single truth … and also there is no single enemy or right or wrong doer.

    I’m glad to read this particular post, because this ending quote in your post on Mustafa’s funeral really bothered me:

    ‎”I loathe my enemy. I will never forgive, I will never forget. People who say such hatred transforms a person into a bitter cruel shell know nothing of the Israeli army. This hatred will not cripple me. What does that mean anyway? Do I not continue to write? Do I not continue to protest? Do I not continue to resist? Hating them sustains me, as opposed to normalizing with them. Their hatred of me makes reinforces the truth of their being murderous machines. My hatred of them makes me human.” – Linah Alsaafin

    As someone who very much wants justice and peace, I believe in non-violence resistance AND reconciliation. I do not equate protests, boycotts, freedom riders, etc. with hate, but with intelligent, dignified, and powerful resistance. However, hate speeches and feeding your anger doesn’t make you more passionate than others or more on the right track. I think it actually leads to continued separation, injustices, killings, violence, further restrictions, and a no-end game. I’m sure you’ve heard of the Bereaved Parents Forum http://www.theparentscircle.org/ – curious what your take is on them. These are families who have lost loved ones in the conflict … so they are individuals very very very close to the pain and conflict here – and seeing them try to overcome and transcend the “me vs. them” mentality is exactly the type of joint effort that needs to happen on a larger scale. If these people are able to come together, it tells me there is hope for a much better future here – for everyone involved.

    • jj, Linah just watched one of her close friends get murdered. Israel is teaching these young people hatred.Their lives are slated for ethnic cleansing. They are not Bereaved Parents. They are prey for a killing machine. Stop the occupation for a healing to begin. don’t expect them to transform while israel is killing them, it would go against a natural animal instinct. Israeli is the predator and they are the prey. The do not come in much contact with israel society, unlike Holly they cannot visit Jaffa and Haifa. your army in their towns and villages protecting fanatical settlers who completely antagonize their lives while stealing their land.

      • When I read your comment, again I was hit with the same kind of sadness and anger I got when reading that quote from Linah. But, coming from Linah … I can much better understand and empathize. Coming from you, Annie, it is worrisome because you are are not Palestinian, not Israeli, have likely not had a daughter or son killed in this conflict (I hope not), and like me and Holly … you have the ability to remove yourself from the situation here if you wanted.

        I really ask that you take a look at your language – “They are not Bereaved Parents. They are prey for a killing machine. Stop the occupation for a healing to begin. don’t expect them to transform while israel is killing them, it would go against a natural animal instinct. Israeli is the predator and they are the prey.” You are not just one-sided, but your viewpoint is very one-dimensional. Did you look into the Bereaved Parents Forum? Are the Palestinians involved in this organization “traitors” in your eyes because they aren’t falling into your concept of “Israel is the predator, Palestinians are the prey, and the Palestinians will fight back in violence because that is the natural way until they have freedom”? Have you ever talked to a Palestinian who besides wanting to fight the occupation also wanted to learn more about Israelis and try to build bridges? These are not animals with animal instincts, but incredible human beings who are a big part of the answer to ending the occupation and reaching some sense of peace. These are people who have a greater understanding and intelligence that violence only begets more violence and in the end, the loss is far greater than any gain. What do you think about the Palestinian Holly writes about who risks a great deal just to visit his Israeli friends in Tel Aviv and party? What do you think about the Israelis who also take some risk in picking him up and driving away before the IDF can catch them? Is their “normalizing” with each other against the struggle? I think these people are some of the bravest and most real. It’s the same way I feel about the freedom riders, Israelis who smuggle in their Palestinian friends so they can for once in their life feel and see the Sea, Combatants for Peace, Bereaved Parents Forum, and many other people here.

        Also, if you are a human rights activist or support human rights (which I very much believe you are), have you had a look at Syria lately? You want to talk about a killing machine ..Forget even dictatorships here … how about the “democratic” and “civilized” Western nations. As an American, when I criticize Israel, I know full well this isn’t some “special case” only seen here in Israel. Where was all the uprise with Bush when no WMD were found? Where are his war crimes as we were in the wrong country, bombing Baghdad right after 9/11 – for what? Thinking about Abu Grahib makes me sick to my stomach … and all this in just the past 15 years! Hilarious and sad that Newt Gringrich has the gall to call Palestinians an invented people, when the United States and Americans are an invented people (ah, how we forget). My point is that Israel and Palestine do not exist in a vacuum and treating the situation here as one-dimensional is not fair or really helpful. It may make you and some of the other Palestinians feel better to know they have an ally 100% who doesn’t question their actions but supports them in everything, but I don’t think it saves lives and I think it only tightens the grip of the occupation. We need to continue work that challenges the system non-violently, (e.g., freedom riders, Abbas’ appeal to the UN, joint non-violent protests, boycotts – for me, against settlement goods, more visits by Israelis to the West Bank – through organizations like Visit Palestine, more round table talks, protests against the government, etc.). Yes, I have more patience being on “the other side,” but I also see that this is more complicated than simply “ending the occupation and giving Palestinians the ROR.” Firstly, it isn’t realistic and secondly, looking at Israel’s pull-out in Gaza, just leaving is not the answer either. I want justice that is true and peace that is long-lasting.

  5. you are not listening, “Linah just watched one of her close friends get murdered.” Coming from you, jj , it is worrisome because you are are not Palestinian nor did you witness someone blow your friends head apart yesterday. When I read your comment, again I was hit with the same kind of condescending lecturing I got when reading your earlier comment.

    I really ask that you take a look at your inability to listen to others, really listen and incorporate common sense into your thinking. people do not join bereaved parents groups hrs after having a loved one killed. you do not lecture a person in shock from a traumatic experience to calm down, it will just infuriate them even worse. you’re being rude and insensitive. and please spare us this mumbo jumbo about “coming from Linah … I can much better understand and empathize” because you showed no empathy toward Linah until you tried using her as a stepping stone to lecture holly about hate: “hate speeches and feeding your anger doesn’t make you more passionate than others or more on the right track. I think it actually leads to continued separation, injustices, killings, violence, further restrictions, and a no-end game.” The occupation leads to continued separation of families , injustices, killings, violence, further restrictions, and a no-end game. End it, don’t hang out lecturing Holly on her friends attitude. Your right about one thing, i am one sided. i’m on the side of truth, the truth you can’t handle. you’re barking up the wrong tree here jj. you’re lecturing supporters of the oppressed. if you really cared about ending this occupation you would lecturing where it counted, to the predators.

    speaking of syria, i hang out on blogs with trolls all the time, neocon trolls and you know what? they love inserting syria into the conversation. and tibet. that’s about as far as i got on your comment, for all i know it ended with tibet. good bye jj. you do not fool me for one minute.

    • Ok, I see where my comments may have been misinterpreted and gotten such a strong reaction. Holly & Annie, when I brought up Bereaved Parents it was not intended as a lecture on how you should somehow push this ideology on people who have just witnessed a close one get killed. My whole intention is to show that there is another way to resist beyond holding on – and feeding – the hate. And I at least wanted to show this other voice and bring it into the discussion. I am not in your shoes, which is precisely why i started reading your blog when I saw it. I hope you can understand that I brought in the quote from Linah because you included in your blog as an end piece, because you started calling the IDF soldiers animals, and because I thought this quote meant than you also believe that you can never forgive, forget, and that hate will only sustain your cause. “They are animals, we are human.” This is also the same kind of language and emotions used by right wing extremists, so of course I wanted to resurface it and show how this angle only feeds the cycle of the violence and occupation – on both sides. I’m sorry, Holly, if you also see me as “trolling” – that is not what I’m about and not my intention. I won’t comment anymore if you feel this way. End.

    • Arthur, I have no agenda whatsoever.
      I write it as it is, so I am sorry if you think I am hiding something. I am only looking for the truth within these blogs, and disagreement is allowed, otherwise there is limited validity in having a blog in the public domain. (Unless it is a vanity piece, and I am quite sure that is not Holly’s intention)

      Tut tut, Annie! First of all you accuse me of not writing with guts or passion; quite simply,neither is necessary when writing plain fact.
      Florid hyperbole distracts from the serious matter in hand.
      And where did the “parental crap” phrase (?) come from? It is inaccurate and unnecessary.
      Not content with trying to put me down (unsuccessfully) you then bully jj in to not commenting anymore .
      So, I am interested; do you feel good about that?
      More worryingly, is that your personal default strategy for dealing with conflict?
      Like Holly, you need to become less passionate, more clear-sighted and learn to stand back a little,if you wish to be seen as effective. And you should understand that is not a criticism, but an observation.
      Stop stamping your little feet when others give viewpoints you do not agree with; they are not (necessarily) wrong, and it makes you look unable or unwilling to accept another opinion.
      And, incidentally, are we to understand that you are now an expert on bereaved parents?
      Perhaps you should read Bramblett’s work on the period immediately following the death, and following the funeral.
      Some families do indeed join bereavement groups in a very short period of time, particularly amongst religious communities, as that is where they may draw most comfort.
      But how would you know that, when you are so busy being indecently offensive, telling jj to “take a look at your inability to listen to others, and incorporate common sense into your thinking”.
      Wow; glass houses and stones spring to mind.
      jj is a far more balanced, reasoned and therefore effective writer, but unfortunately you have frightened him away.Perhaps that was your intent.
      Now, what is the name of those people who crush conflicting opinions . .
      . . sounds fascist, rather than Ta’ayush.

      • hi em, “Annie! First of all you accuse me of not writing with guts or passion; quite simply,neither is necessary when writing plain fact.”

        you’re right of course, neither is necessary writing ‘plain fact. but obviously, this is holly’s article and it’s about her opinion, which frankly, i value. so who are you to tell her what is or isn’t ‘plain fact’ about her own views? ‘plain fact’ makes for very boring reading and i thought you were playing the role of ‘adviser’ wrt holly’s future as a writer.

        i need to listen to your advise like i need a whole in the head. where do you get off telling me i need to become less passionate? lol, who talks like that? apparently you: “This lady doth protest (far) too much.” too much for you perhaps, but maybe holly is not here to please you.

        “And where did the “parental crap” phrase (?) come from? It is inaccurate and unnecessary.”

        i already told you once. it comes from the constant boring lecturly advise peppered w/” in time you will realize that” crap. try listening. it is absolutely accurate. your entire schpeel was one big open ended critique on her style and nothing on the context. nothing. boring. as i mentioned before “it is not good enough to simply assert someone is being untruthful or not factually correct giving no examples or what you’re referencing.”

        you tell her she protests too much (what you mean is she protests too much for your taste, because i liked her post, and shock of shocks em, you can’t speak for me..bumerella for you)

        you tell her she too emotionally heated to be objective. and you know this how? because you’ve been to hebron i presume? seriously, you sound like a school marm. you’re bitching at me ‘trying to put you down’ after laying all this crap on holly. what a hypocrite.you think i should ‘stand back a little’ lol, i could care less what you think, seriously. my job is not to be nice to you anymore than your job is to be nice and complimentary to holly. there is no uniform audience, people are different and they have different tastes, morals, passions everything.

        holly should be who she is, speak from the heart, follow her passions, and blown into the person she is. not restrict herself to others specifications. if you don’t like what she writes, go away. that’s what i do if i don’t like a writer at a blog. i don’t frequent it. she’s a great writer, for me. you aren’t, for me. to each his own and all that.

        “telling jj to “take a look at your inability to listen to others, and incorporate common sense into your thinking”.”

        since you are probably too thick to notice, i just took jj’s own words and shoved them back at her:
        I really ask that you take a look at your language
        I really ask that you take a look at your inability to listen to others

        i figured if she believed that form of appeal would work, it would work for her. the same with you really. you can shove it out you just can’t take the heat when someone shoves it right back atcha


      • Can we get back to basics here, this flowery language dressing up one of the biggest injustices of the last century as a “complex” issue does no-one any favours.

        It’s simple and I will repeat:

        The Palestinian people have had their land and resources stolen from them by another people of mainly European extraction. These people took the country at gunpoint and continue to do so today.

        To assert otherwise is plainly duplicitous and that’s what these illegal immigrants have been doing ever since Plan Dalat was formulated.

        They claim that their “right” to do this comes from a book of fairy stories allegedly dating back 3000 years. The trouble with is that is according to statistics issued by the Israeli Ministry of Information 96% of the Jewish population of Israel are Ashkenazi whose forebears only converted to Judaism in the 7th Century.

        Furthermore, some of the stuff “Em” writes seems to almost parrot “Hasbara Handbook” narrative, or are we supposed to believe that’s just a coincidence?

        The situation is wrong and anyone with an ounce of scruples knows it!

  6. Bravo! A firsthand account of the troubles in the occupied territories is indeed a precious thing in this age of sanitised media and if you fail to remain objective when confronted by such brutality then be assured that this is only because your humanity is still intact. Name calling and emotive language is hardly constructive but serves to convey to the me the reader the depth of the passion you have for your work.

    To bear witness to the suffering of the Palestinian people and along the way to endeavour to educate the ignorant or the apathetic is a responsibility not many of us have, we prefer our experience of conflict to be digitalised these days, applaud the underdog in whatever victories they gain, condemn the aggressor, wring our hands in despair and wonder why the world is still going to hell in a handcart.

    Documenting your experiences as an international observer is a great way to help their cause, finding the right balance and tone is secondary to the facts which we so eagerly crave in the mainstream media fog.

    Kia Kaha


    Stay Human

  7. Marc

    Are you claiming that the Palestinian people did not have had their land and resources stolen from them by another people of mainly European extraction and that the people who stole country from them at gunpoint do not continue to do so today?

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