Saturday, January 12, 2019

A Call for Apology to Angela Davis

On Friday, January 11, 2019, after writing the first draft of this angry opinion and while waiting for it to be posted on the internet, this exclusive interview with Angela Daviswas broadcast on Democracy Now. It is one hour long but it is worth seeing, every second of it. 

This altercation is major! You don’t mess with the likes of Professor Angela Davis lightly. I am not asking here only for the reinstatement of her award. I know that she and her local Alabama supporters will do that better than I ever can. What I find unbelievable is that one of the parties that objected to conferring the Fred L. Shuttlesworth Human Rights Award on her is no other than The Holocaust Education Center in the city of Birmingham. How more completely can a group abandon its moral responsibility or misunderstand it?! What I am compelled to do is to shout out my anger and disgust at the groups unbecoming behavior. I Join the likes of Prof. Norman Finkelstein in condemning the commercialization of the Holocaust memory. “Memory traders,” I call them. Such opportunistic groups have already devalued the concept of anti-Semitism to complete uselessness. I want the group in Birmingham to apologize for its ill-considered misstep. 

To me, the ethics of educating the world about the Holocaust obligates, prima facie, respecting the rights of all human beings, especially the rights of the downtrodden and the subjugated minorities who are targeted for displacement and genocide. Needless to say, the Holocaust’s logic of “never again” is universal and not the property of any specific ethnicity. It is not any group’s proprietary slogan. I hereby declare to the offending group that we, the Palestinian common folk, share in the rebellious outrage of “never again” as much as any other downtrodden human group. It is yours, ours and the Rohingya’s equally. From where I stand, we own and must defend its purity for us and for you. I hereby call you out for overstepping your bounds as the self-assigned guardian of the memory and of educating the world about the lessons of the Holocaust. You owe us as much as we owe you: If we do not rise and defend ourselves together, we are destined to suffer separately and to inflict accusations, insults and misery at each other. You must apologize to Professor Angela Davis and call for the reinstatement of her award. And let me see you stand up and demand from Israel to stop its crimes against humanity in Gaza. That should be your self-assigned duty as well.

When two million people, regardless of skin color, nationality or religion, are facing slow and systematic extermination as the Palestinians in Gaza are, logic dictates that respecting the memory of the Holocaust requires you to side with their right to life. As to all the rest of humanity, the Rev. Martin Luther King’s words come to mind: “In the end, what will hurt us the most is not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends.” That is doubly true when those silent friends finally open their mouth and turn out to support the oppressor. “Hamas!” I can hear you shouting. It is the willful termination of a human life that is at stake again and again here. Civilized humans who take a stand against the capital punishment don’t make their objection conditional on the positive thoughts of the condemned. It is the barbarity of the act of execution that is objectionable, regardless of the outrage of the thoughts and actions of which the condemned are accused. In Gaza less than 3% of water resources are fit for human consumption and food supplies are allowed to trickle in at a rate calculated to approximate but no higher than human survival requirements. Even Gaza’s zoo-keeper has deported his wild animals because conditions are no longer suitable for them. Israeli state-licensed arms dealers advertise their deadly wares with the promotional slogan of “field-tested in Gaza.” Gazan mothers and fathers of terminally ill children at the border are forced to bargain with their honor and to turn informers on relatives and neighbors to access facilities that may save their children’s lives. Israeli snipers shoot to kill clearly identified medical personnel and target body parts of demonstrating civilian youth selectively to cause specific life-long disabilities. When all of that has becomes daily routine, it is your duty as much as it is mine to condemn such systematic atrocities, and not to disparage me and my supporter, Angela Davis, for doing it.

Show the world the courage of your convictions as the self-assigned guardian of the memory of the Holocaust. Let me see you sidestep the Zionists’ minefield of misappropriations. Give Professor Angela Davis the apology you owe her. Pick up the damned phone right now!

Thursday, January 3, 2019

A Mixed Blessing for Amos Oz

Note: This article appeared first on the Mondoweiss website where their are a few additional comments.

An oft-repeated adage in rural Palestine declares wishes of blessings as the only proper sentiment towards the dead. However, after offering the standard platitude, speakers often cleverly hedge their bets by following the positive statement with the reservation of “May God reward him/her in proportion to his/her good deeds.” Somehow, that seems an appropriate way to express my own sense of loss at receiving the news of the death of the star Israeli writer, Amos Oz. I have to admit to his superior literary skill but do have my reservations about his commitment to peace in our shared birth colony of mandatory Palestine.
Leading news media across the globe have eulogized Oz as a prizewinning writer and a fearless peace activist. In the first two days after the official announcement of his departure, Haaretz, the liberal Israeli daily, published nearly a dozen glowing commentaries about his life, literary achievements and ‘enlightened’ political views. Some prominent Israelis felt the country is not the same without him, its star writer, academician and intellectual. And indeed, the man was a gifted narrator and a refined literary craftsman. Alas, throughout his public life he functioned as the literary equivalent of the oxymoronic Shimon Peres, a Nobel Peace prize laureate who introduced nuclear weapons to the middle East. In similar fashion, Oz used his superior skill to apologize for Israel’s aggressions and war crimes, witness the following gem in which he eloquently shared his government’s talking points with the international media during Israel’s 2014 war on Gaza:
“What would you do if your neighbour across the street sits down on the balcony, puts his little boy on his lap & starts shooting machine gun fire into your nursery?”
Every single word and every little brushstroke in the eloquent sentence are selected to maximize the impact of juxtaposing the peaceful Israeli with the terrorist Palestinian without ever using the specific terms. That is fiction writing skill at its best. The validity of the intended message is further fortified by its artful shades. Strangely, the image of the late 12-year-old Mohammad al-Durra cowering next to his father under a hail of bullets in Gaza in 2000 jumps at me from the paragraph. Which should give the reader pause about where Oz and I are coming from: liberal tribal Zionism versus pacifist international egalitarianism.
To the majority of the Israeli public, Amos Oz is known for his persistent campaign in support of the Israeli “peace movement” that advocates for a two-state solution to end the political morass of the Israeli occupation and of the defunct Oslo Accords. Soon after the 1967 war (in which he had fought) Oz started campaigning for an end to the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. Yet, at the bottom of such peace sentiments lurked the less-than-innocent ethnic separation monstrosity that Zionists have planned and practiced in Israel from its first inception as a dream in the late nineteenth century. Regardless how he felt about the recently passed Jewish Nation State Law, such Apartheid practices were the inevitable culmination of those racial separation designs.
Oz lived, produced and prospered for a good part of his life in Kibbutz Hulda in our coastal plain. The fact that the original Palestinian farming community by the same name was erased and his kibbutz, along with other Israeli settlements, took over its space, its farming land and even its name, didn’t seem to impact his conscience in advocating for a peaceful ethnic separation of Palestinians from Jewish Israelis. The Nakba of 1948 was a done deed and the place for the Palestinian refugees, if they have to be considered at all, was among their kind on the other side of an agreed border. And till then we will put up a wall. Here then is our man’s argument:
“If there are not two states here, very soon, there will be one,” he wrote in [his 2017 book] Dear Zealots. “If there is one state, it will be an Arab one that stretches from the Mediterranean to the Jordan River. Jews and Arabs can and should live together, but I would find it absolutely unacceptable to be part of a Jewish minority under Arab rule, because almost all the Arab regimes in the Middle East oppress and humiliate their minorities. And more importantly, because I insist on the right of Israeli Jews, like any other people, to be a majority, if only on a tiny strip of land.”
Needless to say, to Mr. Oz, the internationally sanctioned Palestinian refugees’ Right of Return is null and void. No wonder the Joint [Arab] List Chairman, MK Ayman Odeh has said in eulogizing him:
“I met with Amos Oz several times … Even when we argued (quite a bit!), he was a man of partnership; he supported the end of the occupation. He was not afraid to say what was on his mind and did it with unusual talent.”
Amos Oz’s departure is a significant loss to the literary field and to the cause of Israeli liberal Zionism. To non-Zionist peace advocates, his light shined dimly at a distance. May other pure lights continue to shine in our skies.