Posts Tagged ‘Palestine’
Last December, Israel began a 23-day bombardment of Gaza, killing around 1,400 people. One year on, a generation of children is growing up amid the wreckage of that attack, traumatised – and radicalised – by the experience
Ghiada abu Elaish’s fingers twist in her lap and her eyes cloud over as she recalls the day an Israeli shell killed four of her cousins and left her in a coma for 22 days. She has had almost 12 months to reflect on the tragedy, a time in which hatred and anger might have consumed the 13-year-old. Remarkably, though, not only has she survived shocking injuries and a dozen operations, with many more to come, but she has retained both her sweet nature and faith in a bright future.
Which makes it all the harder for her to return each day after school, dressed in the ubiquitous Palestinian uniform of blue-and-white-striped smock over jeans and trainers, to the scene of the massacre – her family home.
It was Friday 16 January and Ghiada was studying for exams. Her father, a pharmacist, woke from a nap, demanding tea and shouting at the younger children to be quiet. “Suddenly I could hear my cousin downstairs, screaming ‘Dead! Dead!'” A shell had hit the building – a block of five apartments, housing the extended Abu Elaish family – smashing windows and causing extensive damage to the flat below.
In the ensuing panic, Ghiada defied her father and followed him downstairs. “One room was completely black. I saw Aya [my cousin], she was on the ground with wood on top of her. There was a big hole in the wall.”
Ghiada tried pulling Aya out from under the furniture. A second shell struck. “There was a big light for a second,” she says. “I saw some windows smash and I heard screaming all around. A piece of shrapnel hit me. I started to scream for help and then fell down unconscious.”
Ghiada’s father, Atta Mohammed abu Elaish, rushed into the room. “I saw bodies without heads and legs. I saw my daughter. I saw her mother screaming.” He ran outside to call an ambulance. “The Israelis stopped the ambulances 250 metres from the house. Some boys from the street came to start ferrying the bodies and the injured out of the building.”
The attack was one of countless assaults during Israel‘s 23 days of war on Gaza – Operation Cast Lead – that began on 27 December. But it was also one of the most notorious because Ghiada’s uncle – Aya’s father – was a doctor who worked in Israeli hospitals and was well known to Israeli viewers for advocating peace and reconciliation. All through the conflict, Dr Izzeldin abu Elaish gave regular eyewitness accounts by phone in fluent Hebrew to Israeli television. Within minutes of the attack on his own family, he was back on the phone to a journalist in a Tel Aviv studio, weeping and begging for help as Israeli viewers listened: “My daughters have been killed.” Read the rest of this entry »
WAJAHAT ALI – 12/30/08
Moral relativism, political double talk, and a military juggernaut blind to its violence against an occupied people highlight the most recent, tragic conflagration in Israel and Palestine.
In justifying Israel’s most brutal and bloody salvo against Gaza in decades – which has so far killed nearly 400 Palestinians and wounded more than 1800 – Israel’s U.N. ambassador stated Israel rightfully defending itself from continued Hamas rocket attacks within her borders. Prime Minister Ehud Olmdert forewarned the offensive “is liable to continue for some time” and Defense Minister Ehud Barak declared it as an “all-out war against Hamas and its branches.”
By affirming Israel’s “right to self defense” and supporting Israel’s contention that the onus is on Hamas to renew the truce, President Bush’s administration highlighted its remarkably predictable political incompetence and tone deaf moral vacancy by squandering yet another precious opportunity to remedy – at least rhetorically – the festering, radioactive sore that is the Palestinian human rights crisis in Gaza and West Bank. Continuing to spin the broken record, his administration condones Israel’s brazen and repeated violations of international law, while simultaneously denying Palestinian human rights at the precarious risk of destabilizing a hostile and volatile Middle East region. Read the rest of this entry »
The problem with any country fashioned along religious lines is that moderates get buried under rocks and a stream of abuse
During Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar, the port city of Akko erupted into race riots, after a clash between Jewish and Arab residents escalated into a battle involving hundreds of willing participants. The initial incident was sparked by a handful of Jews hurling rocks at an Arab man, after they took umbrage at his decision to drive through the Jewish side of town on Yom Kippur, an act that apparently offended their religious sensitivities.
When word of their attack spread around the Arab community, the response was swift, and as utterly unacceptable as the initial violence meted out by the Jewish attackers. Mobs of Arab locals went on a rampage, smashing cars and vandalising shops belonging to Jews, until police took control of the streets and forced them to a halt. As soon as the Israeli press got back to work after the Yom Kippur hiatus, the reaction was fast and furious, with both sides rushing to condemn the other via the media. Read the rest of this entry »
Barack Obama needs to make a statement loudly, clearly, and with passion that he embraces Muslims as much as any other Americans of Christian, Buddhist, Jewish or other religious persuasions. It wouldn’t hurt for him to embrace devout secularists like me for that matter. Read the rest of this entry »
On Islamo-Fascism and Other Vacuous Epithets
By WAJAHAT ALI
Wajahat Ali speaks to American political scientist and writer Dr. Norman Finkelstein about the denial of his tenure at DePaul University, anti-Semitism, and challenging the academic status quo on the Palestine-Israel conflict.
WAJAHAT ALI: In the recent DePaul University tenure controversy, you and a vocal community of supporters suggested “external pressures” forced the University to deny you tenure despite your overwhelming popularity and respect amongst your peers and students. What is your response to this denial?
NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: I do not want to be a tenure martyr. It was for sure a disgusting ordeal. But my main concern now is to move on and put it behind me. Reasonable people do not doubt why I was denied tenure. The facts are straightforward. I easily met all the criteria of tenure at DePaul. I was denied tenure due to my vocal opposition to Israeli policies in the occupied Palestinian Territories.
Regarding your scholarship, you question and challenge what some consider long-held assumptions regarding the Israeli-Palestine conflict, specifically the actual intentions and motivations of several parties, such as the Israeli government, the United States, and the Arab world. Currently, what do you believe are the most crucial and major obstacles that if removed, could establish some sustainable semblance of peace in that region?
The basic terms for settling the conflict are not a mystery. They are embodied every year in the same General Assembly resolution titled “Peaceful Settlement of the Palestine Question.” The resolution calls for full Israeli withdrawal to the June 1967 borders. The entire world apart from the U.S., Israel and this or that South Pacific atoll (Nauru, Palau, Tuvalu, Micronesia, Marshall Islands) supports this settlement. Once the U.S. and Israel accept the G.A. resolution, the basis will be in place to resolve the conflict.
In your book Beyond Chutzpah, you present evidence against Dr. Alan Dershowitz’s book, Case for Israel, and conclude that his work is a mixture of plagiarism, shoddy research, and poor scholarship. If Dr. Dershowitz’s book is filled with so much error, how do such works become authoritative pieces on the subject?
To win acclaim in mainstream media on certain subjects you merely have to echo the party line; it has precious little to do with actual scholarship. The Nazi holocaust and the Israel-Palestine conflict are two such subjects. Terrorism is another one. I just read this ridiculous book by a so-called leading American intellectual named Paul Berman entitled Terror and Liberalism. The book is fact-free. Indeed, it might be called insane in a rational culture. It starts from the premise that no country in the world has done more for Muslims than the United States. That’s the central premise. You can imagine where it goes from there. Of course it’s a huge bestseller in the United States. It’s hard to imagine how debased U.S. intellectual culture is. Although, in all fairness, I doubt it has yet sunk to the level of France where Bernard Henri-Levy is called a philosopher.
In your controversial book, The Holocaust Industry, you make two arguments. One is that the promotion of the uniqueness of “Jewish suffering” experienced during the Holocaust is used to shield and deflect legitimate criticism of Israel. The second builds upon this and says that this promotion allows a powerful industry to label any such critic, no matter how legitimate, an Anti-Semite. How has this “labeling” played out in recent years in regard to critics of Israeli domestic and internal policies?
Whenever Israel comes under international pressure to resolve the Israel-Palestine conflict diplomatically or on account of its human rights violations, it revives the extravaganza called The New Anti-Semitism. In 1974 the Anti-Defamation League, an Israel lobby group in the U.S., put out a book called The New Anti-Semitism and in 1981 it put out another book called The Real Anti-Semitism. Right after the new intifada began, the Israel lobby again started with The New Anti-Semitism. The purposes of this agitprop are pretty obvious: to delegitimize all criticism of Israel as motivated by anti-Semitism and to turn the perpetrators into the victims. It seems to have less effect in recent years due to overuse: once you start calling Jimmy Carter an anti-Semite, people really begin to wonder.
Anyone who knows this “info-tainment industry” well knows that “scholarship” and polemical histrionics make loyal bedfellows, thus explaining the phenomenon of shock jocks, right wing radio hosts, and the rise of polemical pundits.
What is the role of the professional and ethical academic and historian, specifically one whose concentration deals with the Middle East, in today’s hysterical society? Does your experience with DePaul University signal a warning call to those who tread what some consider your controversial path?
I don’t think my personal experience has much wider meaning. I was targeted because I am politically active. I don’t limit myself to a professional audience of other academics. I have a public reputation, and it was this reputation that the Israel lobby was trying to discredit, successfully, as it turns out. But most academics speak to other academics.
The “Muslim World” has gained a considerable spotlight after 9-11 with pundits commenting on the “clash of civilizations,” “the roots of Muslim rage,” and the newest label suggesting an emergence of “Islamo-fascism”. You have had considerable experience with Muslims and Muslim Americans.Do you believe that a conflict exists between the so-called West and Islam? If so, how can we, as an American society, regain Muslim trust, confidence, and understanding specifically in light of the Iraq War, the Palestine-Israel conflict, and the aggressive rhetoric against Iran, which some Muslims claim is ample proof of a war on Islam rather than realpolitik?
“Islamo-fascism” is a meaningless term. If I am not mistaken, it was coined by the commentator Christopher Hitchens. The term is a throwback to when juvenile leftists, myself among them, labeled everyone we disagreed with a “fascist pig.” So this is a kosher-halal version of that epithet. Fascism used to refer to a fairly precise historical phenomenon, although it’s even doubtful that the term accurately encompasses regimes as different as Mussolini’s Italy and Hitler’s Germany. But when you start using the term to characterize terrorist bands who want to turn the clock back several centuries and resurrect the Caliphate, it is simply a vacuous epithet like “Evil Empire,” “Axis of Evil” and the rest.
Your parents survived the Warsaw Ghetto and the Auschwitz concentration camp. Your published works and scholarship, although labeled Anti-Semitic by your critics, are generally dedicated by yourself to honoring and preserving the integrity of those victims, such as your parents from those you claim exploit their suFfering for political ends. Like others in your field, you could have easily avoided controversy by agreeing with the mainstream. With all the issues you have faced as a result of your scholarship, what has motivated you to continue down this road?
Whenever I wonder why I do what I do – and I do have those moments of self-doubt – I put in my mind’s eye the suffering of my late parents, I think of my friends in the occupied territories, and the doubts vanish. I press on, knowing that soon I will pass from the scene, hopefully having done some good, and not too much evil.
Wajahat Ali is a playwright, essayist, humorist, and J.D. whose work, “The Domestic Crusaders,” (www.domesticcrusaders.com) is the first major play about Muslim Americans living in a post 9-11 America. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org