This year, Guernica celebrates its 10th anniversary as a free, online magazine of art & politics! As we prepare to launch into our second decade, we hope you'll consider making an end-of-year donation. Reader, you make this work possible.

Skip to Content

Share

Robin Yassin-Kassab: Libyans: Passive Tools?

August 31, 2011

Bookmark and Share


While many anti-Libyan commentators have felt free to make sweeping predictions about Libya and the Libyans without actually possessing any knowledge of the people or the country, the people are by no means passive and are not in the mood to exchange one tyranny with another.

By **Robin Yassin-Kassab**

From QunFuz.com.

Robin Yassin-Kassab.jpgSomebody said to me recently, “The Libyans will soon be doing business with Israel, whether they like it or not.” Here we go again: the assumption that the Libyans have no agency of their own, even after they’ve so dramatically taken the initiative to change the course of their own history. Yes, Libyans took help from NATO, Qatar, and the UAE when they found themselves with no other option. This doesn’t mean they are fated to be slaves of the West. Even Iraq doesn’t do business with Israel, and Iraq has suffered a full-scale U.S. occupation.

Such easy assumptions about the Libyan people arise from racism, usually of the unconscious, “well-meaning” variety. This racism consists, first, of indifference to the people’s plight under Qaddafi, or outright denial of their plight. The rose-tinted view of life under the dictator is reminiscent of the Zionists who assure us that Gaza has swimming pools and shopping malls and that Palestinian Israelis live better than any other Arabs. The rush to highlight the crimes of the revolutionaries (sometimes relying on Qaddafi regime propaganda) is accompanied by silence over the far greater crimes of the quasi-fascist tyranny.

Libyans (and, to a degree, Syrians) are seen as passive tools in the hands of the devilishly clever White man, as childlike people who don’t know their own best interests, as people best advised to shut up and enjoy being tortured for the sake of the greater “anti-imperialist” good. The right of the Libyans to life and freedom, and to make their own decisions, becomes less important than the right of certain people to feel self-righteous.

Many anti-Libyan commentators have felt free to make sweeping predictions about Libya and the Libyans without actually possessing any knowledge of the people or the country. Where now are those voices who a few weeks ago predicted so confidently the division of Libya into east and west? Or who informed us that the uprising against the tyrant was in fact a tribal civil war? Or that Tripoli would never fall because Qaddafi had so much popular support there? How do these people explain the almost immediate surrender of Qaddafi’s security forces as soon as the revolutionaries arrived in the capital, or the fact that revolutionaries rose within the capital to greet their brothers arriving from beyond, or the mass celebrations in almost every neighborhood as soon as it became safe to express real emotions?

The challenge now will be to deepen the revolution while keeping the people as unified as possible.

Beyond racism, exaggerated conspiratorial overgeneralization is a symptom of perceived impotence. Some believe that the CIA (or whoever) is behind not only the revolutions in Libya (why the CIA would have plotted to get rid of Qaddafi I don’t know; Qaddafi was not only selling oil to Western companies, he was torturing rendered Islamists on America’s behalf and controlling cross-Mediterranean migration for the EU’s sake) and Syria, but even in Tunisia and Egypt. Such theorists believe, whether they admit it or not, that change through political action is an impossibility, that mass mobilizations, and the courage to take on armed goons with empty hands and bare chests, cannot be real. The logical correlation of this belief is that the sole purpose of the left is to whine about the state of the world, but never to actually change anything. At the start of the 20th Century the left could have been criticized for underestimating the difficulty of establishing a fairer society; at the start of the 21st Century, sections of the left, particularly the Western left, must be criticized for the opposite.

Libyans will certainly do business with the West, just as Qaddafi did before. Libya needs to sell oil to make its economy work and to build the infrastructure that Qaddafi failed to build. (If Libyans require advanced medical treatment, they go to Tunisia—a much poorer country). Libyans will no doubt prefer to do business with the Western countries that gave them support than with such powers as Russia, which gave succor to their oppressors. If Libyans are in the driving seat, making their own decisions, this is fine. Yet certainly the danger exists that in their gratitude and amid the current chaos Libyan officials will make too many concessions to Western power. Britain, France, and others will be working hard behind the scenes to ensure such an outcome, and the Libyans should be very wary.

Many of the first signs out of post-Qaddafi Libya are good. Although the Transitional Council has failed to make a strong statement against racist attacks on African migrant workers (by people who accuse every single foreigner of being a mercenary), and although Mustafa Abdul-Jalil has unwisely called for continued NATO action (until Qaddafi is captured and his remaining forces neutralized), Transitional Council officials have made clear that Libyan citizens (such as Megrahi) will not be handed over to the West. More significantly, protests have erupted in Misrata against the Transitional Council’s appointment of an ex-Qaddafi official to a security position in Tripoli. Much of the Council is made up of old regime personalities. The challenge now will be to deepen the revolution while keeping the people as unified as possible.

Like Tunisia and Egypt, Libya is in the early stages of its revolution. One thing is certain: the people are by no means passive, and are not in the mood to exchange one tyranny with another.

________________________________________________________________________

This post originally appeared at QunFuz.Com.

Robin Yassin-Kassab is a co-editor and regular contributor at PULSE. He is the author of The Road from Damascus.

  Majed Neisi & Salar Abdoh: The Girls of Opium: Iranian doc filmmaker Majed Neisi reports on his travels in the Middle East. More
 
  Rafia Zakaria: Drones and Democracy: As American troops withdraw from Afghanistan, we must realize the departure is only the end of the War on Terror. More
     
  Rebecca Solnit: Hope: The Care and Feeding Of: How it will all end is anybody’s guess, but the future remains wide open. You just have to open up your eyes. More
 
  Robin Yassin-Kassab: Victory in Tripoli: As rebels take control over Tripoli from Qaddafi, the question now lies in where the country shall go from here. More

To read blog entries from Robin Yassin-Kassab and others at GUERNICA, click HERE .

SUBSCRIBE TO GUERNICA’S RSS FEED

Readers like you make Guernica possible. Please show your support.

Tagged with:

Share on FacebookShare on TwitterAdd to BufferShare on LinkedInShare on TumblrSubmit to StumbleUpon
Submit to redditShare on App.netShare via email

You might also like

  • Robin Yassin-Kassab: Thank You So MuchRobin Yassin-Kassab: Thank You So Much  A message from the father of the murdered nine-year-old Ibrahim Shayban to Russia, China and Bashaar al-Asad.
  • Robin Yassin-Kassab: Cockroach RuleRobin Yassin-Kassab: Cockroach Rule  Unlike the uprising in Egypt, the revolutionaries in Libya have not been protected by TV cameras. In fact, they have faced the most extreme, Israeli-style violence since the first day.
  • Robin Yassin-Kassab: Infantile LeftismRobin Yassin-Kassab: Infantile Leftism  If Libyans end up handing over economic control to the West, it will be the fault of the Libyans, not of the no-fly zone resolution.
  • Robin Yassin-Kassab: Terror and HypocrisyRobin Yassin-Kassab: Terror and Hypocrisy  “These murders [in Itamar] were immoral and politically counter-productive. They gave Israel an excuse to whine about the bloodthirstiness of the natives and a pretext for […]

Leave a comment




Anti-Spam Quiz:

Subscribe without commenting