Thursday, February 11, 2010


This essay by Ehud Yaari several years back got me thinking and reading about muqawama, and I've been following this development ever since.

The following are my thoughts on the subject:

Muqawama loosely translates from Arabic as "resistance". The full meaning of the term, however, is much broader. Essentially, it is profound, unyielding, insatiable rejection. In expression, muqawama manifests as violence - political, economic, social and physical. This violence is a crucial element - the denial of normality, the denial of comfort and peace to the enemy, but more importantly, to oneself.

Muqawama has become the preferred ideological vehicle for anti-Israeli and anti-Western forces, because it is able to unify disparate actors - military actors (terror groups) with political operatives (elected or selected government or semi-government officials) and civilian forces (BDS, "human rights" groups, etc.) - from across ideological and religious boundaries: Sunnis and Shiites, fascists, marxists and Islamists, etc. Such combination of forces was not conceivable even a short time ago.

Muqawama is a true Arab innovation, stemming from indigenous honor/shame tribal culture that is so poorly understood by most of us, and infused with religious (jihad) and modern political (nationalism, marxism, etc.) themes. The term itself is almost revered by Arabs, including secular, educated people.

I think this fundamental desire to resist and reject stems from failure, and perception of failure. It is mental isolationism of last resort. "The one thing the Zionists can't defeat or impose on is my the will to reject them", and so on. It is a quest to find strength in what is, in fact, huge weakness. Sure, they killed 1000 of us without breaking a sweat, but we kept firing rockets that did almost no damage, or kidnapped one of their soldiers, etc.

Muqawama is a denial of reality, a refusal to accept that the outcome one seeks will not be achieved under any realistic conditions. The ideological solution to this reality, and the psychological problem it creates, is to push off the date of "victory" and inculcate a mentality of sacrifice, which provides a perverse outlet for grief. The individual believes that their suffering contributes to some distant glory which will make it all worthwhile, this glory itself only vaguely defined to begin with - utopian peace, tranquility, comfort, happiness, etc.

The way to deal with muqawama ideologically is to expose it, objectively, as a psychological front, a mental crutch for total defeat. However, screaming this in someone's face will only push them further into withdrawal.

Not everyone is committed to muqawama "to the death". Less violent adherents should receive support to deal with the anguish and distress that so crippled them, and to help nurture in them an acceptance and understanding of reality. If this sounds like a treatment for other conditions reflective of mental illness, it is.

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