Friday, June 13, 2014

The saga of Prof. Dajani is a subset of a broader Arab struggle between the forces of intelligence and stupidity


The knowledge constituency versus the ignorance lobby

The saga of Prof. Dajani is a subset of a broader Arab struggle between the forces of intelligence and stupidity

A brave man. (Image via Blogspot)
Chalk up another victory to the mighty Arab ignorance and stupidity brigade. Or should we?

Professor Mohammed S. Dajani Daoudi, who runs the Al-Quds University Department of American Studies and University Library has been allowed to resign his position following the uproar over a trip he led of Palestinian university students to Auschwitz-Birkenau. Some Palestinians, including some of his own university colleagues, attacked Prof. Dajani with a mishmash of incoherent and utterly irrational condemnations.

The whole saga has been most impressively chronicled by the redoubtable Matthew Kalman of the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz, whose latest report suggests that Prof. Dajani sought and received promises of support from the university leadership, only to have his resignation letter accepted rather than rejected. Presumably Al-Quds University just doesn't want to hear any more criticism and prefers to turn its back on the entire "controversy" rather than uphold academic freedom in its own institution.

Prof. Dajani told Mr. Kalman that he saw his letter of resignation as "a kind of litmus test to see whether the university administration supports academic freedom and freedom of action and of expression as they claim or not.” If this was indeed a test, they just got a resounding F.

But the whole squalid affair is redolent with Palestinian, and broader Arab, collective neurotic symptoms about others. What, after all, do Palestinians have to gain by insisting their students remain ignorant of the Holocaust? Prof. Dajani argued from the outset that it is essential to understand the Israeli mentality and the Jewish experiences, especially in Europe during the first half of the 20th century, that inform it. It's an unassailable argument.

Nonetheless, there are those, including professors, who, with a straight face, argue that Palestinians should only be taught, and by implication think, about their own Nakba.

Others tried to argue that the problem was not with the trip to Nazi death camps itself, but rather that Prof. Dajani's trip was coordinated with an Israeli university that took Jewish students to a Palestinian refugee camp in the West Bank.

Shock! Horror! Normalization! It's laughable.

There's little hope of Israelis and Palestinians improving their dreadful relationship without, among many other things, trying to understand each other's histories and narratives. That's hardly a panacea. Real coexistence can only emerge in the absence of occupation, and the structural relationship of dominance and subordination built into that profoundly unhealthy and abusive structure. But better mutual understanding may be an essential component of helping to end the occupation and the conflict.

Even if none of that's true, knowledge is, nonetheless, power. The constituency for keeping Palestinian students ignorant of certain facts, presumably because they present the truth about Jewish suffering in Europe during the 20th century and that this complicates the understanding of Jewish Israelis simply as oppressors in the occupied Palestinian territories, is a perfect example of the "stupidity lobby."

And it's not just restricted to Palestinians and their relationship to Jewish history and the Holocaust. There is a broader conflict throughout Arab culture between those who want to embrace the world, in all its complexity and challenges, versus those who want to crawl inside a warm cocoon of insularity. Relying on nostalgic fantasies about former periods of greatness, the broad Arab ignorance constituency is very powerful.

It includes not only Islamists and other religious dogmatists, including apolitical clerics, but also strident nationalists, leftists, fascists, and chauvinists of every possible variety. Among all of these groupings, as well as the important open-minded and globally-conscious constituencies that are most in favor of engaging the world, there are people who push back against insularity. But for the past century at least, the majority trend in the Arab world has been to try, insofar as possible, to shut out knowledge of and engagement with outsiders, except for commercial purposes.

Many Arabs seem to be suspicious of and hostile towards real knowledge of others (as opposed to myths and stereotypes, of course), and even more engagement with them. Too many of us just don't want to hear it. Those, like Prof. Dajani, who try to break through this curtain of insularity are frequently punished, or at least criticized, for their embrace of broader realities, some of which are uncomfortable and destabilize reassuring mythologies.

Prof. Dajani says he doesn't regret the turn of events. Why should he? He's done something noble and constructive, and he will continue to do so without the support of his former university, through many other venues such as his Wasatia movement. But he, and all those like him throughout the region who want to smash the shackles of decades of carefully cultivated ignorance and embrace history and reality in all its troublesome complexity, are pointing the way.

The whole Arab world is at a turning point. If it continues to allow the stupidity and ignorance lobby, in all its myriad forms, to insist on cultural insularity, chauvinism, and deafness to the outside world, it will remain utterly stuck and unable to successfully join and compete in a globalizing world. But if the intelligence and knowledge constituency, as embodied by Prof. Dajani and so many other important leading Arabs, succeed in turning their societies away from decades of enforced parochialism, they will be among the most important groups in building a better future for the Middle East.

The saga of Prof. Dajani, and the whole battle between the Arab ignorance versus knowledge constituencies, is far from over. My money is on the intelligence community ultimately defeating the stupidity brigade, but it's going to be an uphill struggle.

Australia fluffs its lines in the language of occupation

Maan News: Palestine urging Arab states to review ties with Australia... "Israel's illegal annexation of East Jerusalem is beyond 'pejorative' and 'inappropriate'; it is a deliberate and egregious violation, not just of international humanitarian law and consensus, but of the basic norms of responsible behavior that governs relations among civilized states," said PLO official Hanan Ashrawi.  "Trying to fabricate or distort the law to fit Israel's lawless behavior is shameful and dangerous," she said. "Brandis, whether out of ignorance or whether out of blind bias, is trying to render Australia complicit in the Israeli occupation, and is forcing it to become an advocate of international criminal behavior."  

Dismay at more Israeli illegal settlements ... 12 Jun 2014: Letters: We applaud the non-violent efforts of the BDS campaign and back its demand that Israel should comply with international law
Having personally witnessed the injustice visited upon the Palestinian people in the territories occupied by Israel, it is with the utmost sadness and dismay that we, the undersigned international authors and artists, note Benjamin Netanyahu's approval last week of yet another 1,500 new illegal settlement units in the West Bank (Report, 5 June). This is particularly unfortunate at a moment when the Palestinians have formed a unity government that has been recognised by the international community.

Israeli settlements in the occupied territories have long been pronounced illegal by international law.

The Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories is itself illegal, and declared so by the international community through various UN resolutions. Additional settlements can be seen only as an act of aggression, showing utter disregard not just for the human and civil rights of the Palestinian people, but for international law.

We applaud the non-violent efforts of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign and express our solidarity with its demand that Israel should comply with the precepts of international law by:

Ending its occupation and colonisation of all Arab lands and dismantling the separation wall.
Recognising the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality.
Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194.

The Israeli government should respect international law and reverse the approval of the thousand plus additional settlement units in the West Bank.We call on the international community to work to induce Israel to uphold the basic principles of international law.

Harif Abdel Kouddous, Susan Abulhawa, Teju Cole, Nathan Hamilton, Nathalie Handal, Brigid Keenan, Sabrina Mahfouz, Michael Ondaatje, Ed Pavlic, Eliza Robertson, Sapphire, Kamila Shamsie, Ahdaf Soueif, Linda Spalding, Janne Teller, Haifa Zangana

My letter to the NYTimes RE Let It Bleed by Roger Cohen

The Rolling Stones -- Doom And Gloom (Lyric Video)

 Rolling Stones & Roger Cohen (comfortably numb)
Roger Waters & Free Thinkers every where advocating compassion and peace with the rule of fair and just laws and full respect for universal human rights (The truth will set us free...We Shall Overcome (for Palestine))
RE Let It Bleed by Roger Cohen

Dear Editor,

But for Roger Waters and Nick Mason, founding members of Pink Floyd, wisely (and courageously) using their fame to help draw serious international attention to the very real plight of the Palestinians, New York Times columnist Roger Cohen would not have bothered to write a column about Israeli “apartheid”... and the mainstream marketplace of ideas would have less food for thought regarding ending the Israel-Palestine conflict with a just and lasting peace.

Boycott boycott and BDS if you want, boycott J-Street & AIPAC, boycott cute kitten videos too if you want- but realize that there is a big world out there beyond the echo chambers, and most people are able to research and think for themselves- and come to their own conclusions. 

Whatever Zionism and Israeli Jewishness was supposed to mean when Israel was officially established in 1948, obviously something has gone very very wrong:  Right now Israel's supposed Jewishness is an economic advantage and an ego trip for people who are Jewish, but for the native non-Jewish men, women and children of the Holy Land it is a nightmare - and a lie. 

In 1948, in response to what we now know was only the beginning of a massive and ongoing displacement of Palestinians, the United Nations General Assembly passed Resolution 194, which points out quite clearly in paragraph 11 that "…the [Palestinian] refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbors should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date"

The fight for the right of return of all Palestinian refugees is about keeping future communities and work places and history books and tourist attractions worldwide honest and inclusive.  What is good for the goose- is good for the gander.

The fight for the right of return of all Palestinian refugees is a fight for the rule of fair and just laws, and universal basic human rights... and honoring the idea that home and family matter, as does personal choice.  Refugees should not be forced to return.

The return of all Palestinian refugees, with many Palestinians opting to relocate and invest their talents into building a sovereign Palestinian state living alongside Israel in peace and security, will not be the end of Israel, nor will it be the end of the Jewish People.

What is needed in the Holy Land is indeed very simple — real justice shaping two states for two peoples. One called Israel and one called Palestine.  What is needed is a fully secular two state end to the Israel-Palestine conflict firmly based on FULL respect for international law and universal basic human rights- including but not limited to the Palestinian refugees inalienable right to return to original homes and lands to live in peace.

Anne Selden Annab


Monday, June 9, 2014

My letter to the NYTimes RE "Peaceful Nonreconciliation Now" By Dani Dayanjun

Shadowplay by Vahram Muradyan
RE "Peaceful Nonreconciliation Now"

Dear Editor,

Kerry has not failed. Kerry's diplomatic efforts have helped bring international attention to the vital importance of ending the Israel-Palestine conflict with a just and lasting peace.  A just and lasting peace based on the facts- not a temporary 'fix' or a fantasy "blueprint for peaceful nonreconciliation" that hands Israel more time and more ways to further impoverish and displace the native non-Jewish population of the Holy Land.

Economically strong Israel's sovereign failure to respect universal basic human rights (including but not limited to the Palestinian refugees inalienable right to return to original homes and lands to live in peace) is a huge tragedy with dire consequences for the entire region... and Israel's Dani Dayan is not at all reassuring or convincing when he asserts that " we settlers were never driven — except for fringe elements — by bigotry, hate or racism." 

Anne Selden Annab