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Author Moustafa Bayoumi. contributors. Seven of them participated in a Sept. 28 panel discussion at Alwan for the Arts in lower Manhattan. Moustafa Bayoumi, author of How Does it Feel to be a Problem? Being Young and Arab in America, was in South Korea when the publisher of OR Books telephoned him proposing that he edit a quick counter-narrative. Bayoumi accepted “with trepidation,” he said—but nearly everyone he approached agreed to participate. Among the few who did not were national security analyst Anthony Cordesman and professional Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel. Bayoumi said the book has been vindicated as more information has come to light, such as the U.N. Human Rights Council report, which found that the conduct of Israeli military personnel toward flotilla passengers “betrayed an unacceptable level of brutality.” Journalist Max Blumenthal, who was in Israel on a research trip at the time of the attack, was instrumental in exposing IDF lies about al-Qaeda mercenaries allegedly being aboard the Mavi Marmara and purported anti-Semitic insults. He related how the soldier who killed Furkan Dogan was one of four who were awarded Israel’s equivalent of the Medal of Honor, but whose names could not be revealed. Israel’s biggest newspaper, Yediot Ahronot, ran a photo of “our heroes” with their faces blacked out, Blumenthal said. Alia Malek, author of A Country Called Amreeka: Arab Roots, American Stories (available from the AET Book Club), expressed the fear that world outrage over the Mavi Marmara incident would fade, as has happened so often with earlier Israeli excesses. She compared Palestinians and their DECEMBER 2010

supporters to the child in the movie “The Sixth Sense”: “You can see the dead bodies,” she explained, but nobody else seems able to. Arun Gupta, founding editor of the Indypedent, wrote his biting contribution, “The Victim that is Israel,” because he was disgusted with the notion of Israel as the eternal victim—a stance willingly adopted by American journalists like Jeffrey Goldberg, who volunteer their services as propagandists for Israel. Philip Weiss, founder of the Web site Mondoweiss, said he is excited by changes in the American discourse—but on a recent trip to the area found Palestinians feeling more desperate than ever, while Israelis right across the Green Line are thriving and totally unaware. He returned with a renewed sense of commitment, he said, and sees his Jewish “tribe” as having a special responsibility for Israel’s racism and oppression.

Finkelstein on an Irrational Israel The original purpose of Dr. Norman Finkelstein’s Oct. 6 appearance at Alwan for the Arts was to promote his latest book, This Time We Went Too Far: Truth and Consequences of the Gaza Invasion (available online from the AET Book Club at <www.middleeastbooks.com>). Instead, he spoke about “disastrous developments in the making” and placed those in the context of the last decade. Ever since Hezbollah forced Israel to abandon its “security zone” in southern Lebanon, Israel has been seeking to re-establish its deterrent capacity, which Finkelstein translated as making sure the Arab world fears Israel. In its 2006 summer invasion of Lebanon, Israel failed to inflict a military defeat on Hezbollah. Soon after,

Israel began planning an assault on Gaza. On Nov. 4, 2008, it broke a cease-fire with Hamas, knowing rocket attacks would resume and could be used as a pretext to launch Operation Cast Lead on Dec. 27, which Amnesty International described as “22 days of death and destruction.” Israel carefully targeted Gaza’s only operative flour mill, Finkelstein added, so its inhabitants would be dependent on Israel for their most basic needs, and 22 of the besieged strip’s 28 cement factories so they would not be able to rebuild. Then, this past January came the Mossad’s bungled assassination in Dubai of Hamas official Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, followed by the bungled takeover of the Mavi Marmara on May 31. Israel was furious, Finkelstein maintained, not because of the dead and wounded, but because of the amateur execution by commandos from Israel’s elite fighting unit, comparable to U.S. Navy Seals. Images circulated of captured commandos being nursed on the boat, and a U.S. Marine passenger described them as looking “like frightened children in the face of an abusive father.” Thus, he said, Israel’s deterrent capacity is yet again significantly compromised at a troubling moment for Israel. Finkelstein cited recent reports by Daniel Kurtzer of the Council on Foreign Relations, the International Crisis Group, and the Washington Institute on Near East Policy (AIPAC’s think tank) that all predict an Israeli attack on Lebanon in the next 12 to 18 months. Finkelstein fears that because “the natives are getting out of hand and forgetting who is in charge,” Israel may want to deal a spectacularly shattering blow to the Arab and Muslim world to reduce them to size. Israel would not accept another defeat in Lebanon, he asserted, and will either drag the U.S. in or bring down the regime with them. Nor does he think Iran would accept the defeat of Hezbollah, because Iranians know they will be next. Another massive Israeli assault on Lebanon would trigger unpredictable chain reactions. It is open to question, Finkelstein concluded, whether Israel is acting in a rational manner.

Theatrical Premiere of “Rachel”

Dr. Norman Finkelstein. THE WASHINGTON REPORT ON MIDDLE EAST AFFAIRS

“Rachel,” a documentary film distributed by Women Make Movies about Rachel Corrie, an American volunteer with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) who was killed by an Israeli D-9 Caterpillar bulldozer in Gaza on March 16, 2003, had its theatrical premiere in New York on Oct. 8. Moroccan-born Israeli filmmaker Simone Bitton spent three years researching 47

Washington Report on Middle East Affairs  

Published to help provide the American public with balanced and accurate information concerning U.S. relations with Middle Eastern states.