Sunday, May 17, 2015

  • Sunday, May 17, 2015
  • Elder of Ziyon

tennesseeSo, there we were in the middle-of-nowhere Tennessee, right on the border of Alabama, just about a week ago.  It was nothing but trees and lakes and dilapidated barns and bar-b-que joints.  I was there because my wife has a Deep South wing of the family that we were visiting on vacation.  My only thought was to get some of that good southern cooking and hopefully a few bass.  This was the very last place on the planet that I would expect to run into a Palestinian-Arab, but I did.

My wife's cousin and her husband were holding a graduation party for two of their kids, one of whom was taking an associates degree and the other, a bachelors.  I was sitting at the kitchen table, drinking a beer, and chatting amiably with my wife's cousin's husband (an intellectually inclined Brit and all-around nice fellah) and a number of their friends, when an elderly gentleman sat down with his wife.  He was a soft-spoken man, clearly of Middle Eastern descent, and a former professor of economics by the name of Anise.  After awhile, once my curiosity got the better of me, I said something along the lines of, "So, Anise, I get the feeling that you're not a local.  Where are you from?"  His response to my ear sounded like "Pakistan" so I said something like, "Oh, Pakistan."  And then he said, "No. No. Palestine."

I blinked and then looked around the room at all these kids in their twenties and all the other people laughing and chatting in what was a very genial scene.  The people around the table continued talking about this and that, but also politics.  Anise's wife, an anglo-American, started talking about how the United States government was controlled by outside forces.  I looked at her.  This topic went around the table a bit and then, finally, I just had to ask the deadly question.  "So, what countries are we talking about?  I mean, just who is controlling the US government?"


I took a swallow of beer,

My wife, having noted the line of our conversation from a short distance in a different conversation, sat down next to me and put her hand on my leg.  Now, I know what my job is when visiting with the wife's family.  I have one job and one job only.  Be pleasant.  That's it.  That's all.  And usually I am very good at this job and I decided, on the spot, that I would remain good at it.  The very last thing in this world that I was going to do was get into a battle to the death with some 83 year old Palestinian-Arab economist and his wife at a graduation party for young relatives of my wife in the middle-of-nowhere Tennessee!

I, therefore, put my fist on the table, my chin on my fist, and looked up and smiled.  I listened as Anise spoke, in his quiet manner, about how the US Congress was in the pocket of Israel, primarily, but not only, via AIPAC.  After describing al-Nakba, which he had lived through as a sixteen year old boy in Acre - and, needless to say, blaming anything and everything on the Jews there at the time - I earned the clear distrust of his wife merely by uttering the following words: "Well, you do understand that this is contested history, yes?"

She glared at me.

Finally I asked him - innocently, of course - who he would recommend that I read on this topic.  He had two responses.  The first was for Ilan Pappé's discredited The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine.  I am guessing that you may have heard of this gentleman.  You may even have read him.  I know that I have.  Pappé once famously told an interviewer, “Indeed the struggle is about ideology, not about facts. Who knows what facts are? We try to convince as many people as we can that our interpretation of the facts is the correct one, and we do it because of ideological reasons, not because we are truth-seekers.”

I looked at Anise and smiled some more.

However, his next recommendation was for a journal that has flown beneath my radar, but that I am certain any number of you would be familiar with; something called the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs.  It is important to know the sources of theory and information of those whose political views are in conflict from one's own.  One of the main reasons that I am writing this piece is to simply alert the pro-Israel community to the presence of this journal on the other side of the political divide around the Arab-Israel conflict.

Writing in Jewish World Review in September of 2000, Commentary analyst, Jonathan Tobin, tells us that the Washington Report is "the guidebook to the Arabist lobby in the United States" which "specializes in defaming Israel" and is "a must-read for friends of Israel who want a reliable indicator of the thinking of the anti-Israel crowd."

According to Wikipedia, for whatever it may be worth:
In 1992, then AIPAC Deputy Director of Research and Information Michael Lewis charged that "Arabists" have become a major problem for Israel in the United States, distributing copies of the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs to an audience as evidence. He also wrote up his critique in AIPAC's Near East Report. The Washington Report printed a rebuttal of Lewis' accusations.[35] In 1997, Michael Lewis accused the Washington Report of promoting conspiracy theories (especially regarding the USS Liberty incident) and publishing reports that accuse Israel and Zionists of being collectively responsible for many issues in the United States and the Middle East.[36]
wash reportIf you go to the Washington Report website today you will find many heart-warming articles and videos with titles such as, Israel Lobby: Is it Good for the US?  Is it Good for Israel? or Killing in Gaza, Saving in Nepal or Charge of “Anti-Semitism” Used to Provoke Immigration of French Jews to Israel.  To gain access to most of this material one must register with the organization.

The current cover looks like this.  The text beneath this cover on the website reads:

"Malak al-Khatib, 14, who was arrested Dec. 31, 2014 on charges of throwing stones and carrying a knife and sentenced to two months in prison, flashes a victory sign during a Feb. 17 rally in Ramallah calling for the release of Palestinian children held in Israeli jails, four days after she herself was released."

The clear sympathies are for the young Arabs who are encouraged to throw stones at Jews with the clear implication that these kids are heroes who should be admired for their strength of conviction in opposing Jewish sovereignty.

By the time the evening was wrapping up I had extricated myself from Anise and his wife and spent the rest of the night discussing college life and movies with the twenty-somethings.  As Anise was readying to walk out the door I went up to him and shook his and the hand of his wife.  I thanked them both for the fine conversation and promised Anise that I would look into this professor Pappé fellow and check out the Washington Report.

As they walked out of the house my wife came up to me and gave me a big hug.

"Thank you," she said.

Michael Lumish is a blogger at the Israel Thrives blog as well as a regular contributor/blogger at Times of Israel and Jews Down Under.


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Elder of Ziyon - حـكـيـم صـهـيـون

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