Monday, January 31, 2011

Homely Mona

Oh my mama told me
'Cause she said she learned the hard way
She say she wanna spare the children
She say don't give or sell your soul away
'Cause all that you have is your soul
So don't be tempted by the shiny apple
Don't you eat of the bitter fruit
Hunger only for a taste of justice
Hunger only for a world of truth
'Cause all that you have is your soul

(All That You have Is Your Soul, Tracy Chapman)

The Age has finally today managed an opinion piece on Egypt's intifada - by an Egyptian-born "writer and lecturer on Arab issues" no less. Unfortunately, while Mona Eltahawy 's All Egyptians are being liberated from the burden of history promised a fresh, Egyptian perspective, it delivered little more than cliches: "Generation Facebook - kicking aside the burden of history, determined to show us just how easy it is to tell the dictator it's time to go."

I wish that were the worst of it, but it wasn't. Well into her puffery Eltahawy came out with this decidedly peculiar statement:

"Meanwhile, the uprisings are curing the Arab world of its obsession with Israel. Successive Arab dictators have tried to keep dissent at bay by distracting people with the Israeli-Arab conflict. Israel's bombardment of Gaza in 2009 increased global sympathy for Palestinians. Enough with dictators hijacking sympathy for Palestinians and enough with putting our lives on hold for that conflict."

How facile is that? Would that the Arab world were obsessed with the threat posed by Israel!

Is this Egyptian writer seriously telling us that Egyptian dictators, Sadat and Mubarak, were in the business of distracting their people by harping on the Israeli-Arab conflict as she calls it? How? By concluding a peace agreement with Israel and establishing diplomatic relations? Is that what she means by an obsession with Israel? How has Mubarak, USrael's useful tool in keeping Gaza sealed off from the outside world, hijacked sympathy for Palestinians and put poor little Mona's life on hold? Please explain.

OK, so who the hell is Mona Eltahawy anyway, and why, after the above, should we be reading such drivel? Sampling a selection of her earlier pieces reveals a woman seemingly so desperate to fit in with the trendies of her New York* home, that she's effectively become an advocate for Israel, happily sticking it to the Arabs.

In What use are all the wars? (Washington Post, 28/7/07), she casually notes that "Israel's occupation of Palestinian land has caused no end of misery, poverty and frustration for the Palestinians." (Yes, Mona, living under occupation can be sooo frustrating!) But then, as if apologising for her use of the 'o' word, she hastens to add, "It has even scarred the Israeli people's conscience." Ah, but not enough to stop them from voting for one war-mongering, Palestinian-dispossessing, Palestine-colonising governent after another.

Then she's lamenting that, although "Egypt has been at peace with Israel for 28 years," Mubarak "has never visited Israel." It's just not good enough, is it? Mubarak should not only be in bed with Israel, but be seen to be.

So Mona points the way: "I visited Israel for the first time in September 1997... I wanted to see things for myself and not have to rely on the 'official' narrative given by our media." And? And? And what did you find, Mona? The lady doesn't say! How coy is that?

But for sheer anti-Arab venom (and gaping silence about Israel), Israel, opium of the people, written, mind you, during Israel's 2008-2009 wilding in Gaza (The Globe & Mail, 30/12/08), takes the cake. In it, Mona lets fly at those who dared to ask why she wasn't writing about Gaza. Her answer? Writing about Gaza implies "toeing the party line, Hamas is good, Israel is bad," and she'll be buggered if she's going to give in to pressure and say a bad word about Israel.

No, Mona's New York-friendly frame of reference completely obfuscates political Zionism's 100+ year project of swallowing Palestine while simultaneously spitting out its indigenous Palestinian Arab inhabitants by implying an equivalence between Israeli coloniser and Palestinian colonised, Israeli ethnic cleanser and Palestinian ethnically cleansed: "But what to say about a conflict that for more than 60 years now has fed Arab [she can't even bring herself to refer to Palestinians as Palestinians] and Israeli senses of victimhood and their respective demands to stop everything else we're doing and pay attention to their fights because what's the slaughter of anyone else - be they in Darfur, Congo or anyone else - compared to their often avoidable bloodletting." There you go, folks: even while Israel's in the thick of massacring well over a thousand Palestinians in Gaza, wounding and scarring thousands more, and reducing their homes and vital infrastructure to smoking rubble, Mona's hitting us with the old Zionist talking point, Why are you anti-Semites focusing on Gaza when you've got Darfur and the Congo to focus on? And yes, Mona, your mutual bloodletting could have been avoided if only your Israeli friends hadn't broken the ceasefire which had been in place for months beforehand.

But even the above faux balancing of victims is unmasked by Mona's vile ascription of Palestinian blame for the actions of a suicide bomber in the midst of an anti-Israel demonstration in Iraq! Of course, the bigger picture of Zionist Jewish-state sectarianism deliberately exporting its divisive ethno-religious model to the rest of the Middle East via Zio-conservative agenda-setters in the former Bush administration, most lately in Iraq**, is entirely missing in Mona's off-the-top-of-my-head opinion piece.

And then she's off on an Arab-bashing rant in which no reference to Israeli agency is allowed to intrude: "Lebanon keeps generations of Palestinian refugees in camps that serve as virtual jails." (But what are they doing in Lebanon in the first place, and why do they remain there?) Jordan killed tens of thousands of Palestinians in 1970. (But why were they in Jordan in the first place?) Christian Phalangists slaughtered 3,000 Palestinian refugees in Sabra & Shatila in 1982. (But whose allies were they and who allowed them into the camps?) Israeli defense minister, Ariel Sharon, was found guilty of indirect responsibility for that massacre by an Israeli inquiry. (But did that prevent him from later becoming prime minister?)

Finally, after arguing that Mubarak "unleashed state-owned media frenzy at Israel that has fanned a near-hysterical hatred for the country among ordinary Egyptians," Mona trips herself up with "Yes, Israel's occupation of Arab land angers Egyptians," and then proceeds to compound the mess by whining that, alas, "there is absolutely no space in Egyptian media, culture or intellectual circles for discussing Israel as anything but an enemy." But what is Mona saying here if not: Sure the Israelis may be occupying and abusing the Palestinians (who have really only got themselves to blame for that), but why aren't we Egyptians celebrating The Joy of Israel?

The website has appropriately included Mona in a list of 'Housies', which it explains is "short for House Arabs and House Muslims, equivalent to Malcolm X's 'House Negro' and 'Field Negro'," and wonders why she and the other Housies were too busy to attend a protest outside the White House against the wars on Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen and in support of WikiLeaks and Bradley Manning. Ikhras even hazards a tongue-in-cheek guess as to what Mona may have been up to at the time: "Mona Eltahawy was addressing the TEDWomen audience. She spoke about everything there is to know about Muslim women in a nutshell except for the fact that they're on the receiving end of US bombs and depleted uranium and bear the brunt of oppression under occupation in Afghanistan, Iraq and Palestine as widows and mothers of shattered, displaced, tortured families." (Disorganized priorities (as usual), 18/12/10)

Jump to Mona's blog,, for A Jew & a Muslim go upstate (5/9/09), and you find it's even worse than Ikhras could ever have imagined. There you can read all about the interfaith "retreat" where, for three - THREE! - days "we compar[ed] and contrast[ed] the Torah's and Quran's rendition of the Joseph saga." Oh, and you'll be surprised to know that one of Mona's "favorite people" is a "Jewish woman" who argues that "My people were kicked out but it's always been our land. And now we've just returned to our homeland."

[* Talk about being tempted by the shiny apple! ** See my 22/12/08 post Absent-Minded Professors Inadvertently Set Iraq Ablaze]

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