Sunday, May 15, 2011

Battered Palestinian Syndrome 2

"The white liberal may be a little taken aback to know that from all-Negro audiences I never have had one challenge, never one question that defended the white man. That has been true even when a lot of those 'black bourgeoisie' and 'integration'-mad Negroes were among the blacks. All Negroes, among themselves, admit the white man's criminal record. They may not know as many details as I do, but they know the general picture. But let me tell you something significant: this very same bourgeois Negro who, among Negroes, would never make a fool of himself in trying to defend the white man - watch that same Negro in a mixed black and white audience, knowing he's overheard by his beloved 'Mr Charlie'. Why, you should hear those Negroes attack me, trying to justify, to forgive the white man's crimes! These Negroes are people who bring me nearest to breaking one of my principal rules, which is never to let myself become over-emotional and angry. Why, sometimes I've felt I ought to jump down off that stand and get physical with some of those brainwashed white man's tools, parrots, puppets. At the colleges, I've developed some stock put-downs for them: 'You must be a law student, aren't you?' They have to say either yes, or no. And I say, 'I thought you were. You defend this criminal white man harder than he defends his guilty self!'" (The Autobiography of Malcolm X, p 391)

Izzeldin Abuelaish, the subject of an earlier post by me (Battered Palestinian Syndrome, 24/2/11) is in town for this month's Sydney Writers Festival. Of course, a bit of PR never goes astray when you've come all the way from Canada to flog your wares, and by a process thus far unknown to us, the Herald's Good Weekend mag has come to the rescue with Healing Heart by David Leser.

If my first brush with a piece on Abuelaish had me squirming in my seat, this one's got me coughing and spluttering as well:

"'My God, my God, they killed my daughters. Shlomi, I wanted to save them, but they are dead. They were hit in the head. They died on the spot. Allah, what have we done to them? Oh God'."

What have we done to them?! We?!!

"Abuelaish was trusted and well respected, not just by members of the Israeli media, but by the country's medical fraternity as well. He'd been the first Palestinian obstetrician and gynaecologist to have been given a residency inside an Israeli hospital. He helped scores of infertile Israeli couples realise the joys of childbirth... He'd proven himself a man of peace, someone prepared to condemn his own side's suicide bombings, in private as well as in a public letter to the Jerusalem Post newspaper. 'Israelis are our friends', he would often tell his daughters, 'and we should love them as we love one another'."

The House Arab (see my final paragraph) always has to earn his master's trust. It's not 'Israelis can be our friends once the occupation is over and our rights as human beings have been restored', but Israelis are our friends, full stop. Honestly, if Malcolm X had heard such nonsense, he would've been too busy trying to find a bucket to get physical.

"Abuelaish was born in the Jabalia refugee camp in Gaza in 1955... [In 1967] Israeli tanks rolled through Abuelaish's street as they sought to secure the territory from Egyptian rule... [In 1970], the streets of the territory were widened so that Israeli tanks could negotiate their way more easily. Hundreds of houses, including Abuelaish's family home, were bulldozed to the ground."

So Abuelaish was a refugee. As Leser explains, "his family's land - located in what is today the northern Negev Desert of Israel - was lost during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War (The land is today owned by the now-comatose former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon and his family.)." His precarious Gaza refuge was invaded by the Israelis in 1956, about which Leser makes no mention, and again in 1967. And then his family home is bulldozed by none other than Ariel Sharon, the butcher who squats on Abuelaish land in the Negev to this day.

But we are expected to believe that all of this took a back seat to his romance with a kind Jewish family on whose farm (whose farm?) near Ashqelon he worked for just 3 months at the age of 15. Just to clarify, allow me to supplement Leser's sanitised sketch above with an account of what was really going on in the Gaza Strip at this time:

"Between 1967 and 1970, the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip's refugee camps engaged in sporadic armed resistance against the Israeli occupation. In August 1970, Sharon began mopping up remnant guerilla cells. He operated systematically and with great brutality, moving from neighborhood to neighborhood and from grove to grove. The army imposed day-long curfews and gathered the entire population of a neighborhood or refugee camp (preferred sites were the Shatti and Jebalia camps), thus enabling the soldiers to make house-to-house searches and ensuring easy access for the military to any part of the Gaza Strip. This meant demolishing thousands of homes [not hundreds as Leser has it] and uprooting large portions of the Gaza Strip's citrus groves, the region's only crops. Orders were given to shoot any suspect without trial or inquiry, and over a thousand people were duly shot dead or executed." (Politicide: Ariel Sharon's War Against the Palestinians, Baruch Kimmerling, 2003, p 61-62)

"'Izzeldin was a special person, with a balanced point of view about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict', Dr Shlomo Usef, the director of Soroka hospital observed. 'He saw it as a conflict with two sides, and himself as the person to bridge the two'."

Just how balanced Abuelaish is may be seen from the inclusion in his book (no, I still don't have a copy) of a 2001 photograph of the good doctor standing, with a broad smile on his face, with Ehud Barak, the war criminal who, as defence minister at the time of Operation Cast Lead directed the murderers of Abuelaish's daughters and hundreds more children just like them. (You can see the photograph at the Youth Against Normalization blog, 13/2/11) The balanced Abuelaish helps perpetuate the pernicious nonsense, referred to again and again on this blog, that the Zionist project of now hot, now cold ethnic cleansing (See my last post), of wiping Palestine and its people literally off the map, is somehow an equal struggle between two right sides which can be bridged if only other Palestinians were more like Abuelaish.

"Now based in Toronto with his 5 remaining children, Abuelaish was last year nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize following the publication of his book 'I Shall Not Hate'... Often a keynote speaker at peace conferences, he is in Spokane to talk at the Second International Conference on Hate Studies, a multidisciplinary forum seeking to combat extremism in all its guises: racism, sexism, homophobia, anti-Semitism..."

Hate studies?! My God, you can see this one coming a mile off. Cop this from the Keynote Speech at the First Conference to Establish the Academic Field of Hate Studies by Kenneth S Stern of The American Jewish Committee (AJC):

"But the problem [of anti-Semitism] is also one of definition. A 2002 Anti-Defamation League survey said that while 17% of Americans were anti-Semitic, only 3% of college students were. But during the period when that survey was taken, the ADL and many other Jewish organizations, including the AJC, were spending an inordinate amount of time tackling anti-Semitism on campus... The problems on campus were not coming from those who felt that Jews were greasy or slimy, or who wouldn't live next door to or wouldn't marry a Jew. They were from college students who didn't have a problem with Jews individually, but whose anti-Semitism was manifest in its collective expression, namely in the State of Israel." (The Need for an Interdisciplinary Field of Hate Studies,, p 20)

Ah yes, the collective Jew, Israel. What bunkum! But, hey, Stern knows it's a stretch and so he adds the rider, and don't they all?: "This is not to say that criticism of Israel is necessarily anti-Semitism. It clearly is not."

Ah, so we can all go home then? Afraid not, there's a catch, and isn't there always?:

"But to single out only one people on the globe as not having the right to self-determination, or holding their state to a higher standard of behavior than that applied to any other nation, is a form of bigotry that doesn't get picked up in the classic measuring instruments looking at inter-group attitudes."

So this is the agenda Abuelaish is only too happy to lend his name too. Malcolm X has done us all a service in drawing our attention to the phenomenon of the House and the Field Negro*. Now that brown is the new black, if we're incapable of calling a spade a spade here, I'm sorry, but we may as well pack up and go home.

[* See my 21/4/11 post Slavish Devotion]


Anonymous said...

MERC, I only rarely disagree with you, but I think a man who has lost his daughters and decides not to hate the perpetrators deserves to be heard (but not necessarily agreed with). If he is a goon working for the Hasbara, it will become apparent.

The Autobiography of Malcolm X was a revelation to me, along with Fanon's The Wretched of the Earth. As an angry young black man it made sense. In retrospect however, I see anger as being a necessary step in reclaiming your sense of equal worth. Once that is achieved, the anger dissipates.

I look at the Israeli's and acknowledge that if I had been raised in their circumstances I could have the misfortune to be behaving as hideously as they are. The same compassion that tells me that we should never sell out the Palestinians tells me that we should never hate the Zionists. Oppose them, but not hate them.

MERC said...

Thanks for your comment anon, but I respectfully disagree. It's not a matter of hating individual Zionists, but hating and fighting the ideology of political Zionism and all its works. I think I've marshalled enough evidence in two posts on Abuelaish to suggest that, wittingly or unwittingly, his behaviour and words lend themselves, again and again, to normatizing Israeli crimes (and criminals - his photo with Barak, for example) and furthering Zionist agendas. If you think I've misrepresented him in any of my commentary on the quotes from either the earlier book review or the GW article, I'm certainly open to correction.