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The American Left and the Middle East: the case of Eric Alterman and The Nation magazine
September 8, 2008
The American Left and the Middle East: the case of Eric Alterman who blames the Palestinian people for being victims of clebrated and glorified Israel.
This long article by Eric Alterman explains the fundamental and deep problem that advocates of the Palestinians have--and will always have--with the American Left. I have written critically about The Nation magazine before in its (mis)treatment of the Palestinians, and Arabs in general, but this is a new low. This is a long rambling tribute to Israel on its "birthday": to celebrate the birthday of Israel is like celebrating the birthday of a murderer, with cakes and fireworks and poetry. Read this long article and you shall notice that Eric Alterman in his long travel or trip to Israel he did not speak to ONE PALESTINIAN---not one Palestinian.
This is the typical colonial mentality that characterizes the writings of the American left on Palestine. The Palestinians are not not human, and certainly they are not full human beings for Mr. Alterman. Oh, no: in fact, he tells you that the Palestinians in Israel (in the pre-1967 occupation lines) were better off [than] before 1967, that is when they were placed like people in a large prison camp. The Palestinians inside Israel were better off when they were placed under military occupation on their own land, in their own homeland. These liberal American writers would be called blatant racists if they were writing about apartheid South Africa, but they are called liberals when they write about the Palestinians. Only in America, indeed.
This underlying contempt for Palestinians explains why he (Alterman) would refer to Benny Morris (a proud justifier of ethnic cleansing) "controversial". Would Mr. Alterman refer to David Irving or some other white supremacist or anti-Semite merely as "controversial"? But it is wrose, he not only blames the Palestinains for their own tragedy, but he even blames them for the few mistakes or shortcomings that he finds in Israel. He tells you (citing the authority of some other Israeli he spoke to) that: ""When Arabs stopped voting for Jewish parties in the middle of the '80s..." In other words, Arabs are blamed for not voting for parties that believe in Jewish supremacy and in the fundamental inferiority of the Paelstinian people. What chutzpah. And then he says: "The increasing strength of Hamas, the weakness and corruption of Fatah, a rash of suicide bombings, the shelling of Israeli cities from Lebanon and hateful rhetoric emanating from so much of the Arab world have all but drained Israelis of their compassion and patience for the Palestinian "other."" This last passage makes it all clear.
Notice for Mr. Alterman not a word about the words, discourse, speeches of hate that are regularly emanting from the Israeli political class about Arabs/Muslims. It is because racism against the interfior people is always justified. Notice his logic: the Arabs are not only responsible for their own tragedy in their land, but they are also responsible for the non-existence of the peace movement on their other side. This is like saying that blacks in apartheid south Africa are responsible for the racist political system under which they suffered. Typically, Mr. Alterman focuses on the case of Samir Quntar, repeating verbatim the Israeli official story, which contradicts with Quntar's own version which he told in court, and that testimony was closed off for years, only to be released a few weeks ago. Notice that he mentioned several Israeli killers (Sharon, Barak, and others) but nothing about their victims or about their killings. Because their victims are Arabs who don't count for Mr. Alterman.
You can easily argue that liberal Zionism, a la Mr. Alterman's, does not really differ from say the Zionism of Meir Kahane. Both share a firm belief in the inhumanity of the Palestinian people, and both only see one set of victims: the expensive victims in the conflict. But you can tell where this writer is going with his piece from the very beginning: notice his nostalgia for the "golden era" of Israel prior to 1967. The era of Kafar Qasim (I doubt that he has even heard of it, or if he did he would not care a hoot about it becuas the vicitms were members of the cheap expendible race) and the destruction of villages, and the shooting at Palestinian civilians who were trying to check on their lands, and the era of military rule and the arrest of poets, like Mahmud Darwish, was an era that Mr. Alterman is fond off. But in the larger scheme of things: what does this change? I here only remember the words of Lebanese poet Shawqi Bazi` in the poem, Ayman: about the child who refuse to die and who "caries his corpose and fights".
And if Mahmud Darwish once warned Israelis in a poem that we are writing down in a notebook all the masscares that they are committing, we should in the same vein say: that we--those who belong to the critical anti-Zionist left--and who care for peace and justice will never forget the insults that the Nation magazine and other liberal outlets have hurled at Arab victims over the years. Personally, I will never foget or forgive that Tom Hayden, for example, was cheering Israeli soldiers on an Israeli warship when I was being mercilessly bombarded by Israeli warships in the summer of 1982. (thanks Sousan)