As you doubtless know, the LA Times is sitting on a video of Obama at a Palestinian event honoring Rashid Khalidi, who I now believe has Edward Said’s chair at Columbia. Their journalistic integrity precludes them from releasing the video. Yes, I’m being ironic, and yes, I will do something on journalism in light of this and the Nir Rosen story.
But for now, I did a tiny bit of digging around, and found a Eric Martin post at American Footprints which included a Juan Cole post which – shockingly! – calls ‘racism’ in the attacks on Khalidi, and extols this article in the Nation as an example of the kind of good influence he could be on the Middle East.
So let’s go look at it.
It is considered by some to be a slur on Israel and Zionism, and indeed even tantamount to anti-Semitism, to suggest that these events sixty years ago should be the subject of anything but unmitigated joy. Commemoration, or even analysis, of what Palestinians call their national catastrophe, al-Nakba–the expulsion, flight and loss of their homes by a majority of their people sixty years ago–is thus considered not in terms of this seminal event’s meaning to at least 8 million Palestinians today (some estimates are over 10 million) but only because it is directly related to the founding of Israel. Palestinians presumably do not have the right to recall, much less mourn, their national disaster if this would rain on the parade of celebrating Zionists everywhere.
A few things seem clear sixty years after 1948. One is that if the Jewish question has lost its saliency, perhaps more as a consequence of the enormity of the atrocities of the Nazis than for any other reason, the creation of Israel has raised different questions and problems for its supporters and others. To the extent that Zionism has succeeded in winning acceptance of its assertion that all Jews are part of a national body whose nation-state is Israel, it has linked the status and circumstances of Jews everywhere not only to the fate of that state but to every facet of that state’s policies and actions. Insofar as some of those policies and actions may be unacceptable, their very existence must be denied or elided, and reality bent to suit the tender sensibilities of supporters of Israel: for example, the rank discrimination against the 1.4 million Arab citizens of Israel who are not part of the Jewish ethnicity in whose name and for whose interests the state was created and exists; or the collective punishment inflicted on the 1.5 million people of the Gaza Strip imprisoned for months on end; or the systematic torture and humiliation inflicted on the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who have passed through the Israeli prison system. We see the results of this bending of reality in the travesty that passes for news coverage of Israel and Palestine in the American media.
And then there’s this gem:
In particular, Palestinians lacked clarity about the moral, legal and political disadvantages in the use of violence against an Israeli polity able to mobilize in defense of its actions, however unspeakable, the most powerful tropes of victimhood in modern Western culture.
Notice that the moral issues involved in using violence inherently aren’t at issue. It’s the tactical disadvantages inherent in the use of violence against Jews who can, “mobilize in defense of its actions, however unspeakable, the most powerful tropes of victimhood in modern Western culture.”
Now, when a Palestinian leader or thinker shows up who says, “You know – this whole killing Jews thing hasn’t worked so well for us so far. What would it take for us to stop trying to kill them, stop talking about killing them, stop raising our children in the deep belief that killing them is the most noble thing that can be done?” I’ll gte all excited about supporting them, and I’ll be willing to engage strenuously with them in an effort to start a discussion on the question that Israel needs to seriously think about what kind of state it wants to be.
But this kind of apologist, racebaiting crap needs to be called out for exactly what it is – crap.
And if I’m wobbly on Obama, it’s for two reasons – because I’m unconvinced that he believes in free speech, and because I worry that he’ll inadvertently push Israel to the decision that thye’d rather deal with a pissed-off UN and a lot of dead Arabs than a morally dead UN and a lot of pissed-off Arabs,
let be unlike comfortable Western academics who think that genocide is cool.