Thursday, November 20, 2008


by Philip Carl Salzman


The greatest Middle Eastern success in public relations opinion-shaping in the last forty years has been the Palestinian self-definition of themselves as a separate people and as victims of Israel and the West. The entire world, it appears, has been convinced. Europeans and many Americans, not to mention members of the Muslim umma, trip over each other offering sympathy and buckets of money to the Palestinians. The United Nations makes unique arrangements for the Palestinians, and numerous UN bodies devote themselves solely to the needs of the Palestinians. And those same Europeans and Americans, and the members of those UN organs, risk apoplexy in their violent denunciations of IsraelIsrael the bully, the oppressor, the colonialist, the racist — for thwarting the Palestinians.

Palestinians and their partisans, such as those who will meet at the "Edward Said Conference"[1] at Columbia University on November 7-8, explain their unfortunate situation as a result of Western imperialism and colonialism, which, they explain in terms of "postcolonial theory," are rationalized and encouraged by disparaging "orientalist" stereotypes of Arabs and Middle Easterners. The responsibility for any and all current disabilities of the Middle East, according to postcolonial theory,[2] rests with Europe and America, whose interventions have only victimized and destroyed Middle Eastern society and culture.

There is a certain inconsistency in the Arab and Muslim narrative about imperialism and colonialism. About the period of the 7th to the 18th centuries, when the Arab Muslim Empire spread by the sword[3] from Arabia across all of the Middle East and North Africa to Morocco in the west, to Sicily, Portugal, Spain, and France in the north, and to Central Asia and India in the East, followed by Ottoman conquests in Europe, the narrative of imperialism and colonialism is triumphalist. Endless slaughter, forced conversion, slavery, and wholesale expropriation of property were all for the glory to God,[4] and all good. But the rise of the West, and its relatively brief and limited interventions in the Middle East, are viewed as the height of evil. Why? Because God choose Muslims as his True Followers, and as such, they have a right — no, a duty — to dominate.

The stagnation of the Muslim world in the 19th and 20th centuries, and its relative weakness in relation to the rising West, are today blamed by Palestinian and Arab partisans on Western intrusion in the region. But those directly facing the rising West at the time, the Ottomans and later the Persian Crown, knew that they had fallen behind, and sought Western civil and military technology and goods, and Western administrative and legal systems, in order to modernize and better face the challenge. This response is more consistent with our understanding of human life than the "postcolonial" argument that all is the fault of someone else, in this case, the West. One of the great Marxist students of imperialism, the anthropologist Eric Wolf, demonstrated[5] that local peoples, at least those not murdered or enslaved, are not passive receivers of imperial and colonial culture, but shape their response according to their own culture and vision.

Narratives of victimization, such as the Palestinian one, neglect to account for the active Arab response to the Jews and to Jewish immigration. Explaining all by Western imposition robs the Arabs of Palestine of their agency, and infantilizes them. In reality, Palestinians responded actively: Elite landowners sold the Jews land, while the populace in general closed ranks against the Jews. Following the tribally-based principle[6] of those closer uniting against those more distant, the opposition to the Jews was both organizational and religious. Jews were not kinsmen and, worse, were infidels.

Arab opposition to the Jews, expressed in riots and pogroms, was ratchetted up in the face of Jewish desires for national autonomy and independence. After all, it was believed[7] that any part of the Dar al-Islam must remain under Muslim dominance forevermore. And for a thousand years, Jews under Islam had been a subservient and despised minority, cowering under the power of their Muslim masters. The Arabs in Palestine thought that the Jews could not and would not stand up to them, and they acted on that well established cultural principle. Honor would allow nothing less.

The Arabs acted according to their tradition, according to their lights. They refused compromise with inferiors; they refused to divide and share, rejecting a UN settlement. Instead, they strove for complete victory, as their ancestors had. However, the thousand-year-old conditions did not obtain. The Jews they faced were not dhimma, and they did not cower; against the odds, and with little outside help, they fought and won. The Arab states answered the call, but were ineffectual, and failed. The "Nakba" was self-induced by the Arabs. They demanded all or nothing, and got nothing. But they have continued to hold to the rejectionist position, taking an annihilationist stance toward Israel and the Jews. So in reality the self-induced "Nakba" is self-perpetuating. The successful agitprop that obscures this both to the world and to themselves is also a result of Arab agency. The Edward Said Conference will carry on in the same tradition.







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Philip Carl Salzman is professor of anthropology at McGill University.


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.






by Seth J. Frantzman


There are riots between Jews and Arabs in the Israeli town of Acre. Already the chorus of voices has told us that "for years the people of this mixed city coexisted." Now we hear that a 'spark' has set off an 'explosion' of ethnic violence. We have heard this before. We heard it about Rwanda, about Lebanon and the Balkans and about India in 1948. Coexistence is a myth. It is one of the great myths that western liberalism has created. There has never been coexistence and there never will be. There is only individual coexistence. Communal coexistence does not exist.

If, after the Holocaust or in the midst of it, someone had said 'the Germans and Jews coexisted for years before a spark set off the genocide' would it seem logical? Everyone knows that the roots of the Holocaust do not spring out of some 'spark' but out of a deep history that involved Martin Luther's anti-Semitism and the rise of pseudo-scientific racism in the 19th century. The Holocaust was an exception but it does not therefore suggest that the two communities were at peace before.

The myth of coexistence takes itself from the belief that the opposite of ethnic riots and killing must be that the two communities lived in 'peace'. But this is predicated on the false idea that just because nothing is happening that therefore things are peaceful. The evidence that the great communal conflict in India in 1948, in which all the Sikhs and most of the Hindus were cleansed from the newly created state of Pakistan and many millions of Muslims fled India. Hundreds of thousands were massacred. History books tell us that it was partition that created this mass slaughter. Like the Holocaust this is partly a correct explanation. The massacre of 1948 was a unique event. Yet books and articles often go further and tell us that these three communities (Hindu, Muslim and Sikh) coexisted before 1948. The idea is that simply because before the partition they didn't routinely massacre one another they must have lived in perfect harmony. Stories such as these usually involve some individual evidence of someone named Mahmud and some other person named Vikram and how they were friends and shopped at each others' stores and that their children played together.

But these strange stories of individual coexistence always ignore the reality behind them. If someone were to tell us that Thomas Jefferson's family coexisted with the Hemmings family would we believe it? If someone told a story of idyllic coexistence between the white family of Jefferson and how their children played with the children of the Hemmings' we might almost be lulled into a false scenario of 'coexistence since time immemorial'. But if we were subsequently informed that Jefferson's family owned the Hemmings we would view this quite differently. Now if we return to the story of the hypothetical Vikram and Mahmud and their idyllic coexistence in India we must recognize that throughout the history of Muslim India the relationship between Vikram and Mahmud was one of slave and master, one of the Dhimmi and the ruler, one of 'Infidel' or kaffir and of believer.

In the West people spin tales of coexistence that appear, more than the story of Vikram and Mahmud, to be plausible. In the West where the secular nation has no identity and every man is equal before the law we seem to have created situations where genuine coexistence can flourish. Under these circumstances every wealthy and middle class bourgeoisie tells stories of their coexistence. The stories always begin in a like manner: "my Asian friend" or "my Indian friend" or "my Muslim friend." In order to reinforce an ideology of coexistence the elite culture creates movies and books about it. In a sense the idea is that if mass society can see two peoples coexisting on screen then they can imagine it in real life. So we have movies of Jews marrying gentiles (Dieu est grand, je suis toute petite), Indians dating whites (Namesake), blacks dating whites (Save the Last Dance) and whatever else our culture can come up with to convince us that coexistence is possible. But the theory is always the same: if we can show individual coexistence then we can create it in society. But coexistence in society always exists on a superficial level, usually between elites and usually involving some sort of lie where one party is involved only because they want to talk about 'coexisting' and the other party is involved for some other reason. In the end coexistence becomes some sort of peep show or zoo where people are shown little scenes of coexistence. Little of it is ever genuine or decent.

Take the recent Israeli film, For my father, which tells the story of a Palestinian terrorist meeting and having sex with a wealthy Jewish woman while waiting to carry out his terrorism in Tel Aviv. This perverted drama is only acceptable in a society where people have no taste and where the vulgarity of modernity has mixed with the religion of coexistence to create a monster. Like the strange naziploitation movies of the 1970s such as Salon Kitty (1979), Ilsa She Wolf of the SS (1975), Beast in Heat (SS Hell Camp, 1977), which were made in Italy and the U.S and released in Germany as well, we have here an example of a people seeking coexistence with those who will kill them. It would be like having a movie about a KKK member who falls in love with a black girl hours before he is supposed to fire bomb her church and burn a cross on her parents lawn. And yet the public craves this to the same degree that Max Mosley, Formula One's CEO and a descendent of the Fascist Oswald Mosley, apparently craved being dressed as a prisoner in a 'concentration camp' and beaten by prostitutes he had hired to play 'concentration camp guards'.

Coexistence in the Middle East is one of the great myths. In Iraq we are told that the Christians and Sunnis, Kurds and Shias all 'coexisted' under Saddam and that the American invasion set off 'ancient rivalries'. Ancient rivalries? Coexisted under Saddam? Its like saying that the Poles and Ukrainians 'coexisted' under Nazism. Its easy to coexist when the Nazi jackboot is on your head. The same myth is peddled about the Copts in Egypt. From the BBC to Lonely Planet the public is offered up the official government line that Copts, the Christian minority in Egypt, and Muslims get along perfectly. The BBC adds this tag line to most articles dealing with Copts in Egypt "Christians account for up to 10 percent of Egypt's population and relations with the Muslim majority are usually harmonious. But disputes over land, religious buildings or inter-marriage sometimes lead to violence." And yet year after year they are murdered raped and killed. Each time it is an excuse. It is a 'deranged man' who stabs them outside their churches (2006). Or it is a riot because of some play they are staging 'offends' Muslims (October, 2005). Or it is some riot (1999). Or the excuse is that a Muslim harassed a Christian woman or a woman converted to Islam (October, 2008) or a woman sold property to a Muslim (October 2008). Investigating the 'incidents' is not possible anyway because the media and public are barred from most Coptic villages or mixed towns that are outside the tourist circuit.

Now the coexistence myth is being peddled about the Israeli town of Acre. On Yom Kippur 2008 a Muslim man drove his car around Jewish neighborhoods of Acre with his music blasting. This is a holiday where Jews, even secular ones, refrain from driving and are generally fasting and quiet. Jews, responding to the offensive behavior, stoned the Muslim man's car after he would not leave. The BBC would have us believe differently "an Israeli-Arab man was assaulted for driving his car during the Jewish Yom Kippur holy day." The New York Times tells us "[a city that has been a] national symbol of coexistence [was ruined]. The troubles started Wednesday Arab resident of Acre, Tawfiq Jammal, drove with his son into an increasingly religious Jewish neighborhood to pick up his daughter from her fiancé's apartment in a mainly Jewish block." So it is the 'religious' Jews who harmed this innocent Arab. There is no investigation as to whether his daughter was really there or if he could have avoided the religious area or why he played loud music. The Times explains "after leaving the car the Jamals were chased by a stone-throwing mob..Arab residents heard Jamal had been killed ... and set out to take revenge." See the Arabs are the victims, even though only Jewish property, shops and cars were destroyed the first night of rioting, it was all a misunderstanding, and it is the 'stone-throwing' Jewish 'mob' that is clearly more blood thirsty. The Arabs only wanted some revenge.

But the BBC gets the second event correct: "Hundreds of Arabs took to the streets damaging shops and vehicles after the car driver, Tawfik Jamal, was assaulted by a group of Jewish youths." So this attack on an Arab was the 'spark'. Just like the 'spark' that set off the First and second Intifada. Or the 'spark' that set off the 'Paris Intifada' in 2005 when Muslim rioters torched thousands of cars over a two week period after two Muslim 'youths' were electrocuted, by climbing into a power station, while running from police. But newspaper articles reveal deeper truths. One Jewish woman interviewed in Haaretz said she didn't want the Arabs living next to her anymore because they "take all our daughters." Although people tell tales of coexistence and weave myths about the mixed cities in Israel, such as Lod, Ramla, Haifa, Tel Aviv-Jaffo, Nazareth-Nazareth, Alit and Acre, every average person knows the truth. There is no coexistence. There are two communities. One community is the victim of the other. One community robs the other. One community rapes the other. One community blares its music intentionally on the others holidays. One community teaches hate about the other in its schools and calls the other 'Kaffir'. One community whines about racism. One community believes it is discriminated against and because of this receives all the benefits of various 'coexistence projects'. One community has its mosques which blare their 'call to prayer' five times at day beginning at 4 am.

Coexistence is a myth preached by wealthy people who do not coexist. Those who speak the most about coexistence never have to live with it. Those who talk about coexistence in Egypt or among the communities in new York or Acre never live face to face with the 'other'. They live in wealthy gated communities and expound about the importance of coexistence and a non-racial society of colour blindness. They are the ones who make the movies describes thus: "For My Father brings a suicide bomber and a Jewess together." It is the wealthy elites who want us to accept this coexistence: the coexistence between the Nazi Jackboot and the Jew. But we do not want to coexist as slaves. A free man coexists on his own terms. He does not tolerate another man driving through his community playing music on his holiest day. He does not tolerate his daughters being raped. Coexistence only exists when both communities have honour and respect, not when one community murders and rapes the other.

The true myth of coexistence is that the lower classes are forever part of a scientific experiment conducted by the wealthy elites. This experiment at social engineering is called coexistence. Blacks and whites, Jews and Arabs, Muslims and non-Muslims, Serbs and Croats, Hutus and Tutsis, are put together, forced to live side by side like rats in a medical test facility so that some wealthy social engineer can see what happens. The real hatred should be directed not merely against the community of other who suppresses and rapes and disrespects us but also against the wealthy elites who treat us as if we are some sort of social experiment. The hatred should be directed and the rioters stone thrown also at the media who treat us like animals and against the Europeans who come to 'monitor' us and the UN who 'supervises' us and against the sociologists and anthropologists and intellectuals who come to 'observe' us and the philanthropists who come to create their fake coexistence projects that ignore the truth. Until those who preach coexistence actually live it they should be forbidden to preach it.

Wealthy Europeans who never saw a person outside their own little group should not be allowed to go to Africa and tell Hutus and Tutsis how to live. A Tutsi knows how his people were raped and murdered by machetes supplied by the French to the Hutus in 1994. He need not be told to coexist next to those who gang raped his sister. If he chooses to coexist it should be on his terms and not those of some outsider. Likewise the Serbs, who were slaughtered, first by the Muslims, and then by the Nazis, did not deserve to be told to coexist next to their former colonizers and genociders, the Bosnians and Croats. If the Serbs desired, after 700 years, to retain some of their honour, that should have been their prerogative. They didn't want to live next to their former masters anymore than the southern blacks desired to live under theirs. And yet they were told by the German peacekeepers: forget your stupid old history and join modernity. Easy for the Germans to say: they already killed off all their minorities. And that is what coexistence is usually about. Its about former Nazis such as Kurt Waldheim running the UN and telling us how to 'coexist'. He learned about coexistence in the Balkans, putting Jews in the gas vans and murdering them. Its about the Saudis telling Europeans how to coexist with their burgeoning Muslim populations, telling them, and Greece and Ethiopia, to build mosques for their Muslims. Saudi, a country where non-Muslims cannot drive in Mecca and where no houses of worship, except those of Islam, are allowed.

Everyday brings new revelations about the riots in Acre that shed light on the true nature of coexistence. The Arab driver who 'sparked' the riots by driving offensively through a Jewish neighbourhood on the most holy day in the Jewish calendar was actually the head of a 'coexistence' project. We have learned that Jewish funding has been poured into Acre over the years to support coexistence, from the likes of the Abraham Fund and the Jewish Agency. Numerous schools with names like 'Shalom' teach coexistence in mixed class rooms. In addition millions has been invested, only in the Arab part of the city, on various coexistence projects, such as theatres and class rooms. Each year an annual 'coexistence' Fringe festival comes to Acre, ironically it was scheduled for the week after the riots and has since been cancelled, and the performers perform only in the Arab part of the city bringing money only to Arab vendors and businesses. So why did all the investment in coexistence lead to an Arab mob preparing to assault Jews even before the 'spark' set them off? Why did they have their home made axes ready? Why was hate speech and incitement broadcast from the mosque in Acre ordering the Arab mobs to sack the Jewish business district? Where was all the coexistence? Where were all the Arab graduates of these coexistence programs to tell the mob to stop? Why was the entire riot sparked by an Arab who ran a coexistence center? We know why. Coexistence only teaches hate.

Coexistence programming in Acre, funded by leftist Jews who hired right wing Muslim Arabs to do the programming, taught only hatred. Only wealthy leftist self hating Jews participated from the Jewish side and each in turn wore his Khaffiya and made sure to denounce Zionism at every opportunity and call Jews 'Nazis' and 'colonizers'. Each Coexistence program spoke only about Arab victimhood and nationalism and taught Arabs about the 'Nakhba' and 'Jewish racism' and 'discrimination'. Thus coexistence programming was a platform to teach hate, Islamism and nationalism. This is how coexistence always is. Neville Chamberlain also brought coexistence to Europe with the Munich agreement of 1938. This is the model of coexistence that we are always forced to bow down to. It is a model that encourages hatred and religion and fascism among one group and encourages the other to be self hating.

Liberals say that by canceling the Acre 'coexistence festival' that society and 'culture' are 'surrendering to forces of evil.' Leftists say the city is "held hostage" by extremists and 'thugs' on 'both sides'. There is the Ayalim association of coexistence groups in Acre and its Jewish director, Danny Gliksberg. The violence, for this captain of coexistence is "anther reason to work harder." But lets listen to testimony of how coexistence works, of what happens when wealthy American Jews and other do gooders dump their money in 'coexistence' programs: Silvi Vaknin is a poor Jewish resident of Acre. She just wanted to enjoy the most holy day of her calendar in peace and quiet when "there was a group of hundreds outside, mostly masked, from young men to older women, a number of young men climbed on my husband's car and destroyed it. A hail of stones was throne at the yard. We turned out the light and went into the reinforced room. Eight of us, my family and our guests, in that room all night...I felt so insulted. They hurt me and my home on the Jewish people's holiest day."

But remember, always remember, the reaction of the wealthy captains of coexistence who live in gated communities elsewhere. There reaction, and that of the media, is to condemn the mayor of Acre for canceling the coexistence festival and their reaction is to want to 'work harder' to help Arabs in the Arab section of Acre and bring more programs for those who were the leaders of the violence. But listen to the testimony of another poor resident of Acre, listen to them describe how wealthy people have created coexistence: "when I leave the house kids from the Arab school say insulting things. When I mention to the young men that they're blocking my parking space they say 'Yallah, shut up, you're temporary here.'" That's how a 60 year old grandmother experiences the coexistence that wealthy leftist Jews brought to Acre.

Will we give in to the power of the intellectual and his Nazi and Saudi friends who tell us how to coexist. Or will we struggle against each tentacle of this Octopus with all our strength? Those poorer Jews who today throw rocks in self defense in Acre are not the worst members of society, but rather the best for they are standing up for their honour which for too long was crushed under the boot of the intellectuals, Islamic hatred and the philanthropists. They are merely trying to remove part of that boot and remove the myth of coexistence from their throats, where culture has placed it. Coexistence is the true threat to the existence of all people. It is the precursor to genocide everywhere. Whether it was 'coexistence' in the Balkans, or in Lebanon, or Sudan, or 1920s Germany or Cambodia or Rwanda, it always produced the same thing. When a wealthy person comes to a poor community with the intention of opening a 'coexistence center' he should be chased out and beaten. The social engineering forced down our throats by intellectuals, who have been behind every genocide of the 20th century, needs to be opposed with every ounce of our strength. If rich wealthy people want to coexist they deserve to be settled as a buffer in places like Acre and Rwanda between the two peoples who exist there together. Until the rich intellectual leftist builds his home and subjects his property to destruction at the hands of mobs and until his daughters are raped and he must listen all night to the sounds emanating from the mosque and the music played intentionally on religious holidays to offend others, he and his money should be kept out and his nefarious role in society must be deracinated. There is no genocide without intellectualism and wealth. Every single genocide, from the Armenians to the Blacks of the Sudan has been caused by racial and social engineering, pseudo-scientific intellectualism, liberalism, leftist anthropologists, western elitists, the media and, today, post-colonialism. Coexistence is the code word for genocide and it is the precursor to it.

Seth J. Frantzman is a graduate student in Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. His master's thesis was on the 1948 war.

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.




reviewed by Daniel Mandel


Defending the West: A Critique of Edward Said's 'Orientalism'
by Ibn Warraq
Prometheus Books, 2007, 343 pages.

It is one of today's sad truths that to be an open critic of Islam is to incur mortal risk — even while living in the West. For this reason, the author of such daring works as Why I Am Not a Muslim goes by the pseudonym "Ibn Warraq," an alias favored by Muslim apostates for centuries. Since 1995, this 61-year-old, Indian-born, ex-Muslim secularist has devoted his considerable talents to raising awareness in the West of the dangers posed to democratic liberties by radical Islam. He is also a strident opponent of the tendency — stemming from political correctness and general academic culture — to refrain from critically examining Islam. It is fitting, therefore, that his new work, Defending the West, is a spirited rebuttal of post-colonialist thought and its originator, the late Columbia University professor Edward Said.

For the most part, Warraq concentrates on Said's seminal 1978 book, Orientalism, a scathing assault on traditional Western scholarship of Islam and the Middle East. There is a very good reason for this choice of target: Said's theories laid the groundwork for "post-colonial studies," the academic discipline whose founding principle is the belief that the West — and everything identified with its intellectual and cultural traditions — is guilty of oppressing and exploiting those foreign cultures that came under its power and influence at one time or another. Warraq's critique of Said, therefore, is not only an intellectual polemic, but also a forceful refutation of an academic onslaught that for three decades has derogated and condemned almost everything connected to the Western tradition.

EDWARD SAID, WHO PLAYED A DEFINING ROLE IN THIS CULTURAL POLEMIC, was born in 1935 in Jerusalem to a Palestinian Christian family. Contrary to much of what he said or implied before his eleventh-hour memoir, Out of Place (2000), he was raised not in Jerusalem but in Egypt. He enjoyed a childhood of considerable privilege, was educated at the Victoria College in Alexandria, and eventually took up residence in the United States. He subsequently studied literature at Princeton, Harvard, and Oxford universities, establishing himself as a major literary theorist. Eventually, he became a professor of English and comparative literature at Columbia University. Said often noted that, his origins notwithstanding, "most of my education, and certainly all of my basic intellectual formation, are Western."

Israel's crushing defeat of the neighboring Arab armies in 1967 was a source of humiliation for many Arabs both in the Middle East and abroad. In the case of Edward Said, it was the catalyst for his increasingly vocal role on behalf of the Palestinian nationalist movement. Soon, he became its intellectual spokesman in the West, publishing such polemics as The Question of Palestine (1979), The Politics of Dispossession (1994), and The End of the Peace Process (2000). In these and other works, he presented Zionism as a colonialist movement imposed by the West upon a hapless and oppressed people. During the 1970s and 1980s, at a time when the Palestine Liberation Organization was openly waging a terrorist campaign against Israel and advocating its elimination and replacement with an Arab state, Said penned the hagiography of the movement and its leader, Yasser Arafat. According to Said's heroic narrative, the Palestinian cause was a national liberation movement in its purest form. In his 1983 essay, "Solidly Behind Arafat," Said claimed that Arafat "built institutions, dispensed arms, and instilled a sense of hope and pride." He went on to say:

Beyond that, Mr. Arafat did two supremely important things. First, he made the PLO a genuinely representative body. Even his enemies knew that Mr. Arafat and the Palestinian will — though not always clearly and consistently articulated — were in a sense interchangeable.... Second, he was the first popular Palestinian leader to formulate the notion that Palestinian Arabs and Israeli Jews would — indeed must — seek a future together on an equal footing in a shared territory.

Such thoroughly disingenuous language — "equal footing," for instance, is misleading shorthand for an Arab-dominated unitary state — was typical of Said. His adulation of Arafat, however, did not last: When the PLO chairman signed the Oslo accords with Israel in 1993, Said denounced the agreement as an "instrument of surrender." Galvanized, perhaps, by the Palestinian leader's seeming betrayal of the anti-Zionist cause, Said also wrote starkly of Arafat's corrosive habits: "Political discourse no longer exists: People discuss matters that affect survival, and politics is discredited" — leaving one to wonder what became of the "genuinely representative" leader he had once valorized.

Despite occasional conciliatory words about Jews and criticism of Arafat, Said was openly opposed to Israel's existence. In an August 2000 interview with the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, he said of the Jews that "They can certainly be a minority... in Israel. A Jewish minority can survive the way other minorities in the Arab world survived." Given the historical treatment of Jews in the Muslim world, it is hardly surprising that Said's largesse met with little enthusiasm from its intended beneficiaries. By the end of his life, Said had degenerated into referring to New York City as "the citadel of Zionist power" and promulgating conspiracy theories about Jewish domination of American politics. At his passing in 2003, even some of his old comrades, most notably the literary critic Christopher Hitchens, found it difficult to sing his praises.

Orientalism, however, has demonstrated remarkable staying power. Beyond turning Said into an academic superstar, it turned "Orientalist" — once an entirely unexceptionable term describing scholars of Islam and Eastern cultures — into a dirty word: academic shorthand for racism, colonialism, and oppression. At the beginning of Orientalism, Said declares:

I doubt that it is controversial, for example, to say that an Englishman in India or Egypt in the later nineteenth century took an interest in those countries which was never far from their status in his mind as British colonies. To say this may seem quite different from saying that all academic knowledge about India and Egypt is somehow tinged and impressed with, violated by, the gross political fact [of imperialism] — and yet that is what I am saying in this study of Orientalism. (Emphasis in original.)

Said put it most succinctly when he wrote that "It is therefore correct that every European, in what he could say about the Orient, was consequently a racist, an imperialist, and almost totally ethnocentric."

Following the massive success of Orientalism, Said's work became ubiquitous in university syllabi, and his columns appeared regularly in such bastions of the mainstream media as the New York Times. As a result, Middle Eastern studies became deeply politicized, a situation Said did his best to promote through the heated and often personal rhetoric he employed against his opponents. None of this in the least affected the cult of personality which grew up around him. Following his death, a chair was endowed in his honor at Columbia, largely as a result of donations provided by Saudi Arabian plutocrats.

TO BE SURE, WARRAQ IS NOT THE FIRST TO CHRONICLE AND CRITIQUE Said's impact on the intellectual world: Distinguished Orientalists of diverse political leanings — such as Ernest Gellner, Albert Hourani, Nikki Keddie, Malcolm Kerr, Bernard Lewis, and Maxime Rodinson — repudiated Said's ideas in scholarly fashion decades ago, though they largely proved exceptions to the acquiescent rule of their colleagues. Robert Irwin, an Orientalist of note, published the book-length critique Dangerous Knowledge: Orientalism and Its Discontents in late 2006, as Warraq's own work was nearing completion. Nonetheless, Warraq deserves credit for his pioneering work in this field, particularly the long essay "Edward Said and the Saidists," which has been adapted — without major changes — into the first of the three parts which constitute Defending the West.

Warraq sees Said's oeuvre as deeply pernicious. He believes that it laid the foundation for the cultural and moral relativism of Western intellectuals who indict the West for aggression and imperialism, all the while exculpating the East of any responsibility for its own dysfunctions. As a result, Said's theories provided (and continue to provide) aid and comfort to radical Islam's assault on Western liberties. Warraq sets out to demonstrate and critique this malign influence, first by exposing Said's defective scholarship, and second by providing a survey of the Orientalist tradition that refutes Said's central claim that it is based on Western supremacism and imperial power. Third, and last, Warraq defends Western works of art that depict the Orient and demonstrate, he believes, impressive cultural openness — something that, according to Saidian post-colonial theory, is simply impossible.

Warraq's attempt to repudiate the claim that Western scholarship is inherently a form of cultural imperialism begins with an exhaustive survey of notable Orientalists, the details of whose lives and works render accusations of racism, imperialism, and ethnocentricity absurd on their face. He cites, for instance, the work of British Orientalist Simon Ockley, renowned for his altruistic, scholarly devotion to the task of producing his History of the Saracens (1708). Others include Sir William Jones, the brilliant eighteenth-century lexicographer who posited a linguistic connection between Britons and Indians — a far cry from the "otherness" of the "colonized" that allegedly dominated the Orientalist mind; Stamford Raffles, the British imperial administrator who unearthed and preserved archaeological evidence of Buddhism in Java, which had been stamped out by Muslim conquerors in the thirteenth century; and Austen Layard, a nineteenth-century scholar who praised the Turcomans and Turks he met on his travels in Anatolia for their civility and hospitality and who elucidated the causes behind resistance to British rule in India in terms that could scarcely qualify him as an apologist for imperialism.

Warraq also produces an impressive list of Western authors, translators, and philosophers who favored Islam over Christianity. They lauded its freedom from clerisy and dogma and considered the Christian West inferior to it. For instance, Warraq discusses Ignaz Goldziher (a Hungarian whom Said misidentified as German), an "objective but always sympathetic observer" of Islam who despised Christian missionaries and was, at one point, "inwardly convinced" that he was a Muslim. Peter Martyr and Michel de Montaigne, for their part, wrote about non-European civilizations with great sympathy and regard and denounced those Europeans who had brutally conquered them. Said essentially ignored such thinkers, or failed to discuss them in detail — most likely because, according to his thesis, such people simply could not have existed.

Warraq finds Said's professed admiration for certain Orientalists equally disingenuous and sometimes outright inexplicable. He notes that Said discussed both Raymond Schwab, the French autodidact and author of the much admired book The Oriental Renaissance: Europe's Rediscovery of India and the East, 1680-1880 (1950), and R.W. Southern, the twentieth-century Oxford medievalist, as if they somehow anticipated and endorsed his own views. In fact, neither of them did anything of the kind. Both were emphatic in their praise for many of the Orientalists denigrated by Said. These included scholars such as William Jones, whom Said denounced for the basic scholarly procedures of "codifying, tabulating, comparing," tasks that Said, following the lead of French post-modernist thinker Michel Foucault, saw as exercises in power and control.

Warraq finds Said's praise for Louis Massignon equally bizarre in view of the French scholar's tendency to indulge in a fetishistic love of Eastern spirituality, which Said usually condemned. Yet Massignon's hostility to Western civilization — well described in a posthumously published essay by Elie Kedourie, another of Said's many bĂȘtes noires — surely gives us something of an answer. Warraq notes Massignon's virulently anti-Jewish sentiments but ought to have elaborated on them, especially Massignon's conviction that banking and finance were instruments of illicit domination which, along with homosexuality, were introduced into the supposedly pristine Arab world by the West in general and the Jews in particular. (As Warraq wryly recounts, these views did not prevent Massignon from enthusiastically availing himself of the opportunities for pederasty offered by Arab brothels.)

Another aspect less than fully considered by Warraq is Said's monopolization of cultural criticism of the East. For the most part, Said arrogated this right entirely to himself while simultaneously condemning it as one of Orientalism's most monstrous aspects. In his 1981 book, Covering Islam, for example, Said savaged Princeton scholar Bernard Lewis for describing contemporary Middle Eastern societies as intellectually incurious. Yet, a decade and a half later, he said as much himself in his book Peace and Its Discontents. Warraq notes ironically that some of Said's own criticisms of the Arab world turned out to be ill-founded. Said claimed, for instance, that there were no credible scholarly journals in the Arab world dealing with Arab studies. Warraq happily provides a list of them for the reader.

NONETHELESS, WARRAQ DOES NOT UNDERESTIMATE THE RELATIVE WEAKNESS of intellectual culture in the Arab world. His book is filled with telling indices of the fact, both past and present. He notes, for instance, that "even after eight centuries of Muslim presence in Spain, we know of only a single document that reveals any Muslim interest in a European language." Warraq also cites the Arab Human Development Report of 2003, published by the United Nations Development Program, which disclosed that the total number of books translated into Arabic over the last thousand years is fewer than those translated into Spanish in a single year; and Greece, with a population of 11 million, annually translates five times more books than the 22 Arab countries combined, with roughly 300 million people.

This malady, Warraq argues, has its roots in the Islamic past, one in which Muslim interest in other civilizations was the exception rather than the rule. He cites Bernard Lewis — a near-capital offense for Saidians — whose book The Muslim Discovery of Europe demonstrated that, with few exceptions, a lack of intellectual curiosity pervaded Muslim contact with the West. Warraq does not absolve the West of its own responsibility for the decline of Orientalist studies, however. In particular, he points to the slow corruption of the Western intellectual tradition in its own institutions of higher learning through the acceptance of vast sums of money — with strings attached, of course — from Saudi Arabia, Brunei, and other oil-rich countries. These countries have used their financial power to establish chairs at major academic centers with the aim of imposing an apologetic presentation of Islam on Western intellectual discourse — a presentation, that is, in which Said's theories are always front and center.

Warraq ends his book with an erudite refutation of Said's attack on Western literature and art, which he saw as wholly complicit in the imperial project. A noteworthy example is Warraq's adroit dissection of Said's perverse theory, based on a single reference to a character's slave plantation in the novel Mansfield Park, that Jane Austen condoned slavery. Ignoring the evidence that Austen's attitude, as it emerges from this passage, is far more likely anti-slavery than not, Said indicts her for having "prefigured" references to colonial ventures in subsequent novels by other writers, some of them written over a century later. One might expect a more rigorous and attentive reading from a professor of English literature.

In the realm of art, Warraq places a special emphasis on the cultural openness of the West and its curiosity about other cultures. Genovese and Venetian artists, he states, led the way in opening Western eyes to the East. Their work was based on scrupulous observation of Eastern locales visited by these seafaring merchant city states. Artists like Giovanni Bellini and Vittore Carpaccio did not distort or degrade the Orient in their work; rather, Warraq argues, they depicted it through the critical eye of the technically proficient artist. One of the most interesting features of Warraq's narrative is the manner in which Western art has itself changed artistic styles in parts of the East, such as the Italian influence discernible in Persian art since the seventeenth century. Warraq is justifiably impatient with the arguments of Said's disciples, who have asserted that any kind of Western artistic influence on the East constitutes some form of imperial manipulation or derogation of other cultures.

WARRAQ CHOOSES NOT TO SPECULATE ABOUT THE ORIGINS OF SAID'S ANIMUS to Orientalism and the West in general. His book is about the coherence of Said's arguments — or lack thereof — and not their source. Readers will be left to wonder why Said — the privileged son of a wealthy family, educated in the finest American universities, and almost completely Westernized — took the line he did. Having read Warraq, I remain of the view that Said, perhaps like some Jewish intellectuals, responded to the hostility — real or imagined — of his host society by remorselessly deconstructing it; or in this case, by storming its literary citadels. As with many of these intellectuals, one suspects that a measure of guilt was at work: For members of minority groups, professional success is often followed by a belated awakening to one's distance from and subtle non-acceptance by the majority. It is not a new experience for educated people to move between continents and cultures, accompanied by the vertiginous feeling of personal and psychological displacement. It is a great pity that Said chose to address his feelings in such a corrosive way, obscuring rather than clarifying the literary and scholastic canon in the process. Warraq's book is an invaluable antidote to this poisonous legacy, and its impact, one hopes, will be a lasting one.

Daniel Mandel is a fellow in history at Melbourne University, director of the Zionist Organization of America's Center for Middle East Policy, and author of 'H.V. Evatt and the Establishment of Israel: The Undercover Zionist' (Routledge, 2004). This essay was published in AzureOnLine . Summer 5768/2008, no. 33

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.



Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The international community misrepresents international law


Melanie Phillips


I asked the Foreign Office for the legal basis of its opinion that the settlements were illegal. It replied that it was the Geneva Convention, which forbade the movement of a population into occupied territory. I asked whether it was basing this on a ruling by any particular body or whether this was merely its own reading of the Geneva Convention. Oh, everyone accepts this is what the Geneva Convention means, came the breezy reply. I then asked what was its legal definition of the ‘occupied territories’. ‘As defined by UN resolutions – which everyone accepts’— came the even breezier reply.

Is that so.

No it is not. It is in fact a total misrepresentation of international law.

First, Article 2 of the Geneva Convention provides that the agreement applies ‘to all cases of partial or total occupation of the territory of a high contracting party’, or sovereign territory. Thus the Convention cannot apply to the West Bank, nor to East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip for that matter, because these have never been recognized as sovereign territory. As part of Mandatory Palestine, they never belonged to any sovereign state but were occupied and administered illegally by Jordan and Egypt between 1948 and 1967 after the Arab war of aggression against Israel in 1948.

Second, Article 49 of the Geneva Convention provides that an occupying power ‘shall not deport or transfer part of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.’ This was designed to prohibit inhumane practices such as by the Nazis and the Soviets before and during the Second World War in forcibly transferring or deporting people into or out of occupied territories. But the Israeli settlers in the West Bank went there voluntarily. They have not been ‘deported’ or ‘transferred’ by the government of Israel. The only force Israel has used is in getting them out of Gaza. So clearly the Geneva Convention does not apply in any sense to the West Bank settlements.

Third, Israel is ‘occupying’ the West Bank (which on a day-to-day basis is not ‘occupied’ but ruled by the Palestinians) entirely within its rights under international law, which recognises the right of a country that has been attacked to occupy and retain land that continues to be used for belligerent purposes against it. Which is why the UN’s famous Resolution 242 was deliberately drafted to refer to Israel withdrawing from ‘territories’ rather than all the territories – and then only when the Arabs end their war against Israel.

Fourth, the West Bank is not Palestinian land in any sense. As said before, it was originally part of the British Mandate and then illegally occupied by Jordan. Nor have the settlers occupied individual Palestinians’ land, but have mainly built on empty space. I do not condone the actions of some of these settlers against their Arab neighbours, nor their attitudes; and I would like them to leave most of these territories, in Israel’s own interests. But the claim that Israel has ‘stolen’ Palestinian land is simply a lie.

Fifth and most important of all is something that is almost totally overlooked. It is generally assumed that Israel’s claim to the West Bank originated in 1967. Not so. Jews lived in many parts of it for centuries – some of these places amongst the holiest of Jewish sites – and were ethnically cleansed from it in the last century by Arab pogroms in places like Hebron. It was in recognition of this, the historic and inalienable connection of the Jews to this land, that the original Mandate for Palestine – which included what is now the West Bank and Gaza – instructed Britain to facilitate ‘close settlement’ by the Jews in the whole of Mandate Palestine – a commitment which the British proceeded systematically to betray – because of the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine and the grounds for reconstituting their national home in that country.

As the late Eugene Rostow, the former US Under -Secretary of State for Political Affairs who played a leading role in drafting Resolution 242, repeatedly said, that legal undertaking has never been rescinded. It is still legally binding. The UN charter explicitly stated that nothing in that charter should abrogate any pre-existing international instruments. Far from being illegally settled in the disputed territories, the Jews have every right to be there under international law — which says specifically they should settle in the West Bank.
As Rostow wrote:

…the Jews have the same right to settle there as they have to settle in Haifa. The West Bank and the Gaza Strip were never parts of Jordan, and Jordan’s attempt to annex the West Bank was not generally recognized and has now been abandoned. The two parcels of land are parts of the Mandate that have not yet been allocated to Jordan, to Israel, or to any other state, and are a legitimate subject for discussion.

The Foreign Office’s apparent ignorance of international law derives from its own innate political hostility to Israel and its wholesale endorsement — along with virtually the entire British intelligentsia — of the mendacious propaganda of the enemies of Israel and the west. Miliband’s remarks have nothing to do with international law, history or the truth, which he has misrepresented and repudiated, but with dirty and shameful politics. It appears that the British government has now decided openly to side with the enemies of Israel – those enemies who really have been thwarting international law for six decades in their war of extermination.

Thus HMG is now marching in lockstep with its joyfully welcomed comrade across the pond — who will shortly enter the White House and leave Israel abandoned, undermined, and under pressure to cut its own throat.

Melanie Philips

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.


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