Alternative Palestinian Agenda
The organizational philosophy of the Alternative Palestinian Agenda is based on the need to create space in our daily discourse on virtually any issue of concern. Making visible the rules through which difference and diversity are normalized in activism and general political thinking is a practical strategy to open a potential space for alternative thinking and alternative acts. The need for space goes far beyond that of decision-making. It applies to how we think about who we are, who 'they' are, what we know, and how we know it. Essentially it is relevant to every aspect of our activism, political thinking, slogans we raise and strategic directions.
As individuals and as groups we adopt systems of reason that define that which we know and how we know it. These systems serve as templates of thought and action in that they define the very parameters within which we think. To create space is to be self-aware of these parameters and question them such that we come to think beyond them. We need to constantly question our system of reason as a group and as individual activists. Without such questioning, the normal and abnormal appear as universal truths regardless of their rationality at a given time under given circumstances.
The powerful, the 'other', normalizes his definition of us, thereby confining us to what he thinks of us. We then react to this definition, whereby our reaction becomes the current definition of ourselves. This new definition, which he has drawn for us becomes our accepted and normalized definition of self. To question the system of reason to that which we know is normal is to constantly separate that which we are from that which we were made to be.
we are not talking about physical space, but a space to think beyond what
we currently think. If we remember that all that we know is somehow connected
to patterns of thought and experience, we can try to think outside of the
box of self through which we have been constructed. Often the box feels so
normal and self-evident that it is very difficult to deconstruct it, and yet
by asking the right questions that literally undermine the construction of
self, we can broaden the self for the benefit of understanding in order to
greater inform our actions. Otherwise we may simply be shuffling ideas within
the same box without real change or progress.
The elements that determine reality and normality are complex, even undistinguishable. And yet they give rise to a known and a course of action. To recognize that where we are at any given moment is more complex and multifaceted than it may appear. This complexity is overlooked because we tend to focus on the here and now, the latest picture, as a way of making sense of our world, perhaps even to feel that we are where we are by choice, not chance, and that our actions are reflections of decision that we have made.
But just as the current discourse in activism emphasizes choice, local autonomy, decentralization and inclusion, we do not have the space to think about the extent to which choices are limited and why, local autonomy over what, and inclusion where and to what end. The implied freedom and democracy throughout such discourses evades these questions and carries on the illusion of achieving that which we desire. The most dangerous in this pattern of naturalization of specific methods and procedures with respect to activism is the internalization of such patterns, such that external definitions of self actually become the prominent self-characteristics, far removed from the systems of reason that actually defined it.
Majority of Palestinian activists are not asking the right questions because the space to do so does not exist. The capacity to question and thereby make such space available to key individuals who have the power to shape our very being must be cultivated so that the good intentions of activists, thinkers, researchers, and even policy makers result in meaningful actions. Otherwise, our activism may actually reinscribe the very rules of inequality that we sought to change.
The first step to creating such space is to recognize the limited scope of the systems of reason by which we live our lives. Understanding the possibility of alternative space that could open doors to courses of actions not yet considered or taken is a vital stage in such a process of self-reflection and problematization of being. The difficulty is the uncertainty such space generates for individuals. It could potentially undermine one's very sense of self. But just as new life springs from the burned field, the deconstruction of self may lead to greater understanding and meaningful action that does not leave the well-intentioned doer turning in his/her grave. Such space may actually create possibilities that bring our society that much closer to its noble goals of equity and social justice.
Thus, with space comes possibility, not certainty. So far, people have felt more comfortable with the illusion of certainty, rather than self-proclaimed uncertainty. The need for control must be great among human beings, and yet the pursuit of truth, and even truths runs deep as well. Creating space then is not just about questioning and problematization of the self, but also involves a tremendous amount of courage to seemingly pull the rug out from under oneself consciously, knowingly, voluntarily. We must have the courage to push ourselves even if doing so is unsettling, disturbing, seemingly suicidal. In actuality, we may be rescuing ourselves and with that society at large.
A final component involved in creating space is an intellectual honesty that no one is all knowing and that the pursuit of truth is not a destination, but a path to understanding and meaningful action. It does not come with any guarantees, nor can it be completely verified. But it can be compelling if we are honest about what we see and how we come to see that which we see as truth. We must accept that we never get there, the train never quite arrives, but there is a compelling direction in which to head, if not several. Such space requires honesty about the limits of perception, but also the potential for understanding.