As a Middle East expert who lived in the Muslim world for nearly 10 years, travels widely there, speaks the languages, writes history from archives and manuscripts, and follows current affairs, I…
As a Middle East expert who lived in the Muslim world for nearly 10 years, travels widely there, speaks the languages, writes history from archives and manuscripts, and follows current affairs, I found that none of that counted for much when I entered the public arena in the United States. It isn’t that I am thin-skinned or can’t dish it out as good as I get it. Rather, it is like being a professional baseball player ready for the World Series, who gets in the van and instead of being delivered to Yankee Stadium is blindfolded and taken to a secret fight club where people are betting on whether he can go 12 rounds with a giant James Bond villain. And he says, “But I’m not a boxer, I bat .400.” And they sneer, “You will pay for insulting our great aunt.”
This is an arena where vehement partisans are honored as “journalists,” where ability to speak languages or engage in cultural interaction counts for nothing, and where rich and powerful patrons make reputations rather than any real knowledge. NYT columnist David Brooks slammed me for not having recognized Ariel Sharon’s potential as a peace-maker with the Palestinians and for not seeing how positive the Iraq War was for resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian crisis. (???) I was routinely denounced by David Horowitz, who used to be an insufferable leftist in the 60s when he edited Ramparts and now is an insufferable rightwinger, but who knows nothing at all about the Middle East (and what he thinks he knows is wrong). Marty Peretz, who married into the Singer Sewing Machine fortune and then used his wife’s money to buy and ruin The New Republic, turning it into pro-Contra, pro-war rag, was annoyed to see me on television because of his vast fund of knowledge about Arabic hollow verbs. Michael Oren, a bad, partisan historian and Israeli army reservist (who fought in the Gaza War); who revived the Gobineau Orientalist tradition in his book on the US and the Middle East; and who is now the Israeli ambassador to Washington– weighed in against my receiving an appointment to the Yale History Department. Princeton-trained Martin Kramer until recently of Tel Aviv University, who recently advocated using the Gaza blockade to force small families on the half-starving Palestinians, made a cottage industry of snarky and mostly false remarks about Informed Comment; and has a relationship with the so-called “Middle East Forum”, which runs the McCarthyite ‘campus watch’ and which was part of a scheme to have me cyber-stalked and massively spammed.
More recently I have provoked the ire of a burly former Israeli military prison guard at the notorious Ketziot detention camp during the first Intifada, who is among our foremost journalists of the Middle East and given a prominent perch at The Atlantic magazine– Jeffrey Goldberg.
Horowitz and the others routinely just make up entire passages and attribute them falsely to their victims. You always think you can defend your position in an honest debate. You aren’t prepared the first time someone says, “How do you justify your spirited defense of Pol Pot?” Horowitz had some Kahaneist string together a series of statements I never wrote and published them in a book on the supposed 101 most dangerous professors (as if anyone is more dangerous to our Republic than a lying rightwing demagogue). What I really mind is that he never sent me so much as the T-shirt. Also, students still don’t seem sufficiently impressed by the title to get their papers in on time. John Fund of the Wall Street Journal, who had supported the fundamentalist Islamic Salvation Front’s attempt to take over the Algerian government, accused me of being pro-Islamist and then just made up entire sentences he claimed I had written, which he was forced to retract because I had not.
Likewise, Jeffrey Goldberg just now accused me of wanting “to deny to the Jewish people a state in their ancestral homeland.” The fact is that a) I’m generally sympathetic to the states recognized as United Nations members. But b) wounded romantic nationalism of Goldberg’s sort is a pathetic remnant of the twentieth century, which polished off tens of millions of human beings over wet dreams about “blood and soil.” There isn’t any “blood” or “pure” “races,” and human groups have no special relationship to territory. My complaint about the treatment of the Palestinians is that they have been left stateless and without citizenship or rights. I’m not a Palestinian nationalist who insists that they return to what is now Israel (though they should receive compensation for lost property if they don’t). The Germans weren’t always in Germany (in fact they are relative newcomers), and they aren’t of ‘pure’ ‘blood,’ and the 200,000 Jews in contemporary Germany–some of them Israelis– have as much right to be there as anyone else. Most Germans and most Ashkenazi Jews have a relatively recent female common ancestor. As a species and subspecies, we are from southern Africa, and that only about 100,000 years ago. If someone is nostalgic for the Old Country, they should try Gabarone, Botswana. And say hello to Mma Ramotswe for me.
Israeli Army Cpl. Jeffrey Goldberg then corrects my assertion that he has no vision of the future of the Palestinians by saying that he has advocated for a Palestinian state in all of the West Bank and Gaza with East Jerusalem as its capital.
So let me say up front that I did not in fact think Goldberg would go quite that far, and that I apologize for getting him wrong.
But here are some problems with Goldberg’s position, nevertheless:
Me, I see Likudniks and Avigdor Liebermans at the head of a country with one of the world’s most powerful militaries and intending to implement policies likely to get Americans killed, and I intend to scream bloody murder.
Would Cpl. Goldberg like to specify which he would prefer, in case it comes to that (as it likely already has)?
End/ (Not Continued)