Posted by: r.m. | March 17, 2014

No to exceptionalism. Yes to solidarity and historical readings.

There is a tendency, a dangerous tendency, in the thinking of numerous communities here.  The essence of this framework is that “we are different.”


We find it in positive statements such as – “Only Lebanese excel when they travel.”   or  “Only our history is so grand.”

And in negative statements – “No one has suffered as much as we have.” “No wars have been conducted in the manner in which they have been conducted against us.”

— Note: I very much doubt that this exceptionalist-thinking is only present in Lebanon. <no pun intended> 

I just came from a lecture whose very foundation was this concept of exceptionalism.  Not only has no people, anywhere in the world – now or before, had genocide committed against them and had their history deliberately erased, but we are the only ones that also defeated a grand army and showed that army that they can be attacked in their home base.


A few exceptions come to mind. Australia and the deliberate killing of millions of indigenous communities.  The Americas – from Canada to Argentina. And Africa – and the hundreds upon hundreds of years of genocide and slavery and theft.

And, yes, in all those examples, their history – the history of the indigenous communities – was erased.

As for the ‘grand army’ – we have the US army in Vietnam, the Soviet army in Afghanistan… and more…

This concept of ‘exceptionalism’ is ahistorical.  And it is arrogant. And debilitating

We need to ask ourselves: why do we want to be so special? Truly.  Why do we want to look upon ourselves as “only us”? Rather, why not unite with others in our commonalities?

Let us learn from the plethora of examples around us – of struggles against occupation and oppression.  Let us contextualize Zionism as racism, and thus build solidarity with all who struggle against racism.  Let us contextualize Zionism also as colonialism and build solidarity with all who struggle against colonialism.

I wish, truly, that we – as people from the Levant – are the only ones who have suffered – and continue to suffer from –  occupation and division, lost identities and betrayed teachings of history.  I wish that those horrors were not so common worldwide.  But they are. A quick reading of history tells us those horrors are common, and a quick reading of current affairs tells us they are ongoing.

So, we are not alone.

And as we struggle against occupation and oppression here, we can understand, learn from, and support similar struggles worldwide.

As we struggle against Zionism here, we can understand, learn from, and support struggles against racism worldwide – and at home.

And throughout it all, we can get strength and hope and inspiration from others.



  1. […] Talking about solidarity… Roger Waters has an article entitled ‘Why I must speak out on Israel, Palestine, and BDS‘, published today in Salon Magazine about solidarity! He speaks out powerfully – once again – in support of the Boycott movement against apartheid in Israel. […]

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