‘Missionaries of the new era’: neoliberalism and NGOs in Palestine
by a Sibille Merz
From the abstract:
This article explores the effects of the neoliberal development paradigm on the restructuring of social formations through the external funding and promotion of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in Palestine, and more precisely in the West Bank towns of Ramallah and al-Bireh; they are the ‘missionaries of the new era’.
It argues that neoliberal rationality aims at transforming societies and subjectivities around the notion of enterprise and weakens the collective national resistance movement.
and from the article:
The new focus on civil society and NGOs, which was aimed at ensuring that the Palestinians saw concrete improvements in their daily lives in order to minimise resistance to the peace process, has left deep marks. Among the most noticeable changes has been the gradual neutralisation of Palestine’s formerly highly active and political civil society. Donor funds to various organisations have resulted in NGOs’ retrenchment from popular support, diminished their mobilising potential and consequently hindered mass mobilisation during the second intifada. This is exemplified by the new focus of many foreign-funded Palestinian NGOs on civic education programmes, human rights training, awareness-raising activities and advocacy work as a result of their entry into complex relations with various international donors.
The Pals. can never get it right?
Well, actually, this writer is as radical as can be for she faults the NGOs for not being more politically extreme:
The al-Aqsa intifada nonetheless exemplifies the absurdity of a vision of society as partitioned – despite the social reality of Palestine – into ‘civil’ and ‘political’ spheres, for it places Palestinian NGOs in an antagonistic relationship to the mass-based national struggle. Hence, western donors’ conceptualisations of civil society have undermined their stated aim of strengthening Palestinian society, contributing instead to its fragmentation.
In other words, the internationalists must give the Pals. more of what they are: extreme, radical, uncompromisng and basically violent. The 'national struggle' must take precedence even if the history of the past 100 years is that in doing so, the Arabs get further away from their goals and become illiberal and more muderous in the process.