Monday, April 04, 2005

Marquette’s Arab Heritage Celebration: Hating Israel and the Jews

Given the historical richness and world historical importance of Arab culture, one might expect Marquette’s Arab Heritage Celebration to show a profuse and multifaceted picture of that culture.

Unfortunately, much of the program is dedicated to one vulgar theme: how Palestinians are victims of evil Israeli aggression, and how America is a partner in this victimization.

Consider, for example, the movie “Jenin Jenin” which is being shown on April 7th. A very favorable review from a pro-Palestinian source describes it as follows:
In “Jenin Jenin,” Palestinian director/coproducer/writer and actor Mohamed Bakri provides a glimpse of what truly happened in Jenin, telling a story of endless suffering and devastation, of a flattened camp, of lives lost and families destroyed during the Israeli invasion. Bakri includes compelling testimony from Jenin residents-including children, the handicapped, and the elderly-- who were victims and witnesses to the crimes Israel committed in its two-week invasion of the camp.

People overwhelmed with grief and bitterness search in the debris for loved ones. Fearless young Palestinians inured by Israeli violence unwaveringly resolve never to give up, and to continue to fight Israeli oppression and injustice. (Sylvia Shihadeh. The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs. Washington: Mar 2003.)
Right. Israelis are scum, it seems to be saying. So let’s have some more suicide bombings. Let’s kill more Israeli soldiers.

Such conclusions would be morally warped if Israeli soldiers really had engaged in the “massacre” that the film charges. But they are even worse given that it didn’t happen that way:
One of the most prominent examples of the fundamentally biased and unfair approach taken by much of the international media was seen in its handling of the fierce battle between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian terrorists in Jenin in April 2002. A short time after the battle, most of the international media hastily jumped to conclusions and described the battle as an Israeli “massacre” of Palestinians. Israel was also immediately accused of having destroyed the city of Jenin. Israel was both tried and judged in the media, before even the most basic facts were known. Most of the international media swallowed hook, line and sinker the Palestinian propaganda version of what transpired. Had they verified the facts the media would have known that what was initially described as a “massacre” was actually a battle in which 56 Palestinians (the vast majority of them armed terrorists) were killed, as were 23 Israeli soldiers. What was initially described as the “destruction of Jenin” turned out to be a battle in only a very small area (about 100 x 100 meters), a tiny fraction of the entire city.
While the above comes from Israeli government sources, the UN reached similar conclusions.

Equally bad is another film shown with “Jenin Jenin.” Titled “Gaza Strip” it is directed by one James Longley. One reviewer, from The Yale Herald, described some of the film’s distortions:
Selectively recording the first four months of 2001, Gaza Strip focuses solely on the predicament of the Palestinians; not one second of the film’s 72 minutes is allotted for an Israeli perspective. For example, Longley’s Palestinian subjects bemoan the fact that they are forbidden to travel on a particular road due to a temporary closure and carp about Israeli limitations on their movement in general. To the naïve viewer of this film, Israel appears to be an oppressive, ruthless, and racist regime. However, a close examination of the events occurring in Israel during the very period in which Gaza Strip was filmed provides some much needed context. Did it even register with Longley that it might be important to report about the Palestinian terrorist from Gaza who hijacked a bus and killed eight Israelis? Or the Jewish man living in Gaza who was kidnaped and lynched by Palestinian terrorists? Or the Palestinian terrorist from Gaza who shot and killed an Israeli soldier on patrol? Longley never so much as hints at the violent attacks that Israeli civilians have to contend with on a daily basis, and barely touches upon the virulent hatred of Jews that is so pervasive in Palestinian society. How can anyone take Longley’s film seriously if he ignores the very circumstances that lead to Israel’s necessarily restrictive policies in the Gaza Strip? Israeli-imposed travel restrictions are caused by wanton terrorist acts, not by some fictitious Israeli desire to oppress Palestinians.
If the films to be shown are tendentious and propagandistic, some of the speakers are equally bad.

One of them is a fellow named John Esposito who has a history of minimizing the threat of terrorism, and believes that President Bush is surrounded with an evil neoconservative cabal that has some sinister plan – which he will not specify.

But Esposito is quite moderate compared to Jennifer Loewenstein, scheduled to speak tomorrow at Soup with Substance. She is not merely somebody who believes that Israel should make concessions to the Palestinians. She is somebody who believes that Israel should not exist as a Jewish state. For example, she signed on to a statement rejecting the December 1, 2003 Geneva Accord. Why? First, because it allows Israel to exist as a Jewish state, but also because (in the words of the statement):
10. Most importantly, it weakens the national unity and resolve of the Palestinian people leading to the potential defeat of the current Intifada in the same manner Madrid and Oslo destroyed the first a decade ago.
Translation: Palestinian terrorists might stop killing people. Palestinians might settle for a Palestinian state. She wouldn’t like that.

It’s not surprising to find somebody like this accusing Israel of using nerve gas.

It’s also not surprising to find somebody this radical is also virulently anti-American:
Forget about the Road Map. Don’t be seduced by the talk of peace. Israel is an offshore US military base and weapons testing ground. It is a westernized colony for white supremacists seeking ways to discreetly dispose of its nigger [sic] population. It is an American franchise for the new global economy, a consumer outlet, an ad for Disney-World-gone-native, a terrorist training camp for Jewish fundamentalists, the most well-funded terrorist organization outside the mainland United States, a strategic foothold in the Middle East for oil-thirsty, power-hungry neo-cons.

It is suicide’s most willing accomplice.
One of the upcoming events is a “Jenin Massacre Display” consisting of photographs by Loewenstein. Let me guess: there will be no photos of Israeli civilians killed by Palestinian suicide bombers.

This is the sort of anti-Israel and anti-American bigotry that JUSTICE, MUSG and the Office of Student Development think can provide some worthwhile insight.

Norman Finkelstein

Perhaps the worst of the speakers is Norman Finkelstein. He is the author of a book titled The Holocaust Industry. The thesis is that Israel, and also American Jews, have used the Holocaust to claim victim status and gain unfair advantages: quelling criticism of Israel and extorting money from European banks and governments, for example.

This is far from being absurd, but some of the other things that Finkelstein has said put it in a rather unfavorable context. He has, for example, questioned whether Israel’s 1967 and 1973 wars were really the result of Arab aggression against Israel – notwithstanding that Israel was invaded in 1973, and that in 1967 Arab states were ostentatiously preparing to invade.

As with Loewenstein, his views seem motivated by an extreme leftist political bias. In “Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict,” he asked, “What is the raison d’etre of Zionism in the contemporary world save as an outpost of reactionary and imperialist forces against the resurgent East?” (The Jerusalem Report. Jerusalem: Aug 28, 2000. pg. 44.)

And like Loewenstein, he thinks that Palestinian leadership has sold out the Palestinian people not by being too militant, but by being too willing to make concessions for peace. (See for example “Scholar Norman Finkelstein Calls Oslo Agreement a ‘Sordid Detour on Path to a Just and Lasting Peace’” The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs. Feb. 1997. pg. 39). In his book The Holocaust Industry, he labels Yasser Arafat “now a compliant American ally.”

He has been willing to compare Israel to the Nazi state, saying in a university lecture circa 1990 “I can’t imagine why Israel’s apologists would be offended by a comparison with the Gestapo. . . . I would think that, for them, it is like Lee Iacocca being told that Chrysler is using Toyota tactics.” Similarly, in the context of the use of Arab labor, he observed that Israeli Jews are becoming “a parasitical class.” (The Jerusalem Report. Jerusalem: Aug 28, 2000. pg. 44.)

There are some more moderate voices on the program, Dr. Hanan Ashrawi being one, but the overall bias of the proceedings is hard-line leftist anti-Israel and “pro-Palestinian” – with “pro-Palestinian” being defined by the more extreme anti-Israel spokespeople.

The Real Victimization of the Palestinians

Reducing any group to the status of victims is essentially demeaning, but playing the “victim card” has its immediate rewards for some members of the group. In colleges and universities, most particularly, one can become a client of the campus grievance industry. Politically correct faculty and administrators will fawn over you, cater to you, give you money to bring in speakers, appoint you to committees, and just generally make you feel important.

And it doesn’t matter much whether what you are saying is sensible, or whether it meets any real world intellectual test. Ideas that are absolutely hopeless and pernicious (like doing away with Israel as a Jewish state) are not only accepted, they become the orthodoxy, since they cater to the sensibilities of politically correct faculty and bureaucrats.

To give one example, Salma Khaleq, in a Marquette Tribune column of March 8, 2005, criticizes a course taught in the Political Science Department by Ambassador Dennis Ross on the grounds that “When . . . Edward Said, well renowned Palestinian intellectual, is left out of the course’s required texts, then the class lacks one perspective.”

Said is popular in academia for all the wrong reasons. His most famous work, Orientalism, takes British and French Middle Eastern studies professors to task for promoting ideas that justified Western colonialism in the Arab world. Of course, politically correct humanities faculty eat this stuff up, and Said has become a hero among such folks.

Said was not any sort of vulgar anti-Israel bigot. But he had the notion that somehow both Jews and Palestinian could live together in a single secular state. As laudable that that idea may sound to Americans, it simply isn’t workable. Even secular Israelis are radically opposed to the end of Israel as a Jewish state. Serious attempts to bring peace have to begin with the premise that Israel must continue to exist as a Jewish state. Failure to accept this is a recipe for continued misery, and particularly misery among the Palestinians.

But we are in academia, where people are protected from the real world consequences of the ideas they promote.

This, in fact, is the real victimization of Palestinian students, and they are willing collaborators in it.

1 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

A few years late, but I just happened to come across this article.
Whats disturbing the most, is that you just go after Finkelstein as a person.
You might hate him as much as the next person but in fact, all he does is quote what the UN, the International Court of Justice and the human rights organisations say.
I don't see you seriously disputing any of his claims at all, instead you focus on the person.
Thats just bs and its not what you should do.
If you disagree, state his "facts" and state why you disagree and what you base your opionion on.
I know thats harder than just go after the person thats behind all those arguments - but I would love to see you at least try it.

8:58 PM  

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