I Condemn, Do You?

Al-Akhbar is currently going through a transitional phase whereby the English website is available for Archival purposes only. All new content will be published in Arabic on the main website (www.al-akhbar.com).

Al-Akhbar Management

There are rules for discourse in the US, particularly if you are an academic, and more particularly if you espouse views that are moderately or sharply different from the stance of the US government.

If you are dealing with the Middle East, the rules apply more rigidly. You are to preface and conclude your remarks by condemnation. You are always reminded that when you disagree with the US position on foreign policy, you do so at your own peril. The intellectual and political intimidation is not so subtle. It is rather universal and widespread.

If you talk about the Arab-Israeli conflict, you are expected to condemn “Palestinian terrorism.” One is not allowed to speak on Arab-Israeli conflict in the US without the refrain of “condemning Palestinian terrorism.” In a book on BDS which is critical of Israel, Slavoj Žižek concludes his little chapter by, you guessed it, condemning Palestinian terrorism.

In other words, there are licenses issued to allow a person the right of free expression. And even those are controlled so that a person does not stray too far away from the acceptable defined parameters of political debate.

I have watched this phenomenon since I came to the US. Academics can’t open their mouths on Arab-Israeli issues without condemning Palestinian “terrorism”. Even when Palestinians seem to have suspended violent struggle against Israel, people are still expected to condemn Hamas and Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad before they get to make their point.

There is something similar going on today about Syria. One is expected to inject condemnation of the Syrian regime before one can speak about Syria. This is not to argue whether condemnation is in order or not (and here I feel the pressure to write my own share of “of course, I condemn the Syrian regime”), but to argue that debate and political rhetoric are politically defined.

What is amazing though is that one is not expected to habitually condemn Israeli terrorism in order to obtain license to speak on Arab-Israeli issues. Similarly, one is not expected to offer condemnation of crimes against civilians by armed Syrian opposition groups in order to comment on Syria. So the prerequisite of condemnation is a method to control speech and debate. It is a system of control and restrictions.

These “condemnation” requirements are strictly imposed on Arab and Muslim American organizations in Washington, DC. If a Muslim or an Arab anywhere in the world commits an act of murder or terrorism, those organizations are expected—nay required—to issue statements of condemnations.

Such requirements are not in any way imposed on Jewish organizations in Washington, DC. In fact, if such requirements are imposed on Jewish organizations, there would be justifiable accusations of anti-Semitism, because the requirements assume that the whole is responsible for every individual of the group, and that the group is a monolithic group involved in a nefarious conspiracy.

However, this is exactly how Arabs and Muslims are treated. I sometimes used to be asked by the press to express condemnation for this act or that. I would argue that the condemnation merely reinforces collective guilt. I have urged people in Arab American organizations in DC (before they were all bought off by Gulf gas and oil money) to be aware of this danger.

An Arab in the US is as much responsible for a crime by an Arab anywhere in the world, as much as a Christian in the US is responsible for the crimes by individual Christians anywhere in the world.

Should people not condemn crimes? Politicians should, but the language of academics, writers, or journalists should not adhere to the political standards of people whose career choice is to run for office. Those should set their own standards of rhetoric and discourse.

Comments

War is war in all ways as the evil effects caused by the war is so brutal that we cannot think of a war in future and the Isreal Palestine war is one of the most brutal war that the worlds has ever seen.

That is terrible! I'm afraid that from now on there will be a subtle intimidation in Lebanon and Syria, similar but hopefully not as intense as in the US. It's sad to see that last bastillion of academic free speech falter and fall, and follow the degenerate path of intellect in the US.

A lame, but predictable from the defender of USA imperialism, who must believe in something like:

"Even more terrible to think that Lebanon and Syria were founded by colonial settlers and imperialists, robbers and mass-murderers of non-whites, who worked millions Black slaves to death and exterminated natives. Then Lebanon and Syria started and still are waging multiple colonial wars all over the world, mass-murdering, torturing, kidnapping and robbing, and all this while bragging being the freedom lovers and thus justifying their most heinous crimes, while supporting Zionists by all their might.

Of course, USA are much better than Lebanon and Syria at least in such regard, so sure, anon has all right to compare them favorably to Lebanon and Syria, who are just by their own rotten nature are against the freedom of speech, and not because USA support the most oppressive regimes in the world if only they are good to USA imperialism and Zionism, and getting rid of any progressive regimes USA could.

After all, it is a fact that USA is a light to the world, esp. to the ME natives, who are just too stupid to get their own interests right."

Next time the anon would tell us how USA do not mass-murder children.

... And a lame, also predictable rebutal that claims to understand what others stand for, based on what they speak against: If you're not white, then you must be black (colors, not races). There is no gray in the world. Such is the world in the eyes of As'ad and his likes. Unfortunately there's nothing genius, nothing creative about such a philosophy, no matter how prolific, angry or loud its adherents are.

Like As'ad, I live in the US. And like him I have a very negative opinion of the US foreign policy and am appaled to think that a fraction of my taxes goes to fund wars and Israel. But unlike him, I do recognize that the US policy is not the only cancer in an otherwise perfectly harmonious world. By no means I am implying we should not criticize and cry foul when we see it. To the contrary, that is how democracy evolves. But there's no way we will create our own "light" if all we do is lament imperialism and its evils, especially when the criticism is as incredulous and pathetic as the "condem" article above.

1) USA jailing record % of population - unproportionally non-whites - is not "foreign policy". USA having lawful torture is not either. And so on.
2) I just want to learn about any gross problem anywhere without any role of USA or their lackeys. I could not remember any.
3) The world has a lot of problems on its own. USA imperialism always turns them worse
4) They got Al Akhbar in Lebanon and it is popular as much as I know. There is nothing like this in USA (leftist, good and popular). So much for freedom of speech and such.
5) I got it. Anyone could criticize USA and cry foul, but only if the anon approves the exact wording.
6) As a matter of fact As'ad was just stating what a lot of others before him have told many times - that USA media are virtually the tools of ruling class. If I could find something to object in the article, it would be some naivety of As'ad who had came to USA after reading Marx and Lenin and still was surprised.

1- Utopia has not materialized anywhere. The US still has a long shot to go. I cannot respect or defend any internal or foreign policies that perpetuate poverty, income disparity, etc.... and those are not few in the US. Your point taken there. However, all in all, both As'ad and I still feel more valuable and appreciated here than elsewhere (I have not tried too many places though, I could be wrong). This increases the chance for the system to evolve into something that we all feel proud of. Although not guarantied.

2/3- Again, the black and white view of the world. As the major power today, it's probably fair to say that there is not a problem in the world that the US does not have a vested interest in. That does not make the US the sole responsible though (and they are/were more actively responsible to few of them). To blame the US for Sunnis and Shiaas killing each another is naive, not to use harsher language. To blame them for the hoards of greedy Lebanese money-sucking war lords (wearing suits and ties these days) is also ignorant. I grew up maronite and I was raised on the sectarian, racist, supremacist counter-intellectual diet that we both know real well. This good stuff predate the US and its foreign policy. But the US knew how to play it, and this I cannot respect and defend. My point here is, instead of crying "colonial imperial pigs" at every chance, it is ALSO important to look inward and start dealing with our own cancers.

4- There's NPR (National Public Radio) in the US, which is a much more democratic model than Al-Akhbar. Unlike Al-Akhbar, they are funded by normal people like you and me, $10 at a time. This way, they do not need to smile, nod or kiss the hand of their major funding source, like Al-Akhbar may have to. (Note: my respect to Al Akhbar exceeds any other Lebanese newpaper, but still consider it heavily tilted, sub-standard).

5- Got it wrong. Criticism makes us evolve and adapt. However, criticism itself needs to evolve, challenge itself and contribute.

6- Is it not naive from your side to be surprised that the ruling class (more accurately people with money) have tons of influence on the media? Is this not true elsewhere in the world? But to say that it's all orchestrated under a large conspiracy whose main aim is to get academics to say they condemn Palestinian terrorists is very egocentric.

Big sigh...

How do I start?
1) I was not talking about utopia, but about very real imperialism. Palestinians do not ask for Utopia, just to USA to stop support Zionism 24/7 150%. Of course, this could still sound a bit utopian, but we'll see. Then, speak for himself, not for As'ad, and yes, it shows that you have not much experience with alternative to USA imperialism.
2) It is not naive at all to remind about USA dirty role in fostering sectarian troubles in Iraq and beyond, esp. USA support for Saudi sectarian propaganda. So, first learn some facts, will you? You could start with As'ad writings, he sure knows a bit about the issue. The "black and white" fraze, by the way, is the favorite propaganda tool of capitalist media while dealing with opposition from more or less real leftists - not when the propaganda condemn Iran or Syria or so on.
4)NPR is but a tool of imperialist propaganda. They told about "green revolution" in Iraq and big gratitude of Afghan women for being "liberated" by USA troops.Their coverage of Palestine is through and through Zionist one In short, it seems that USA people could support their own brainwash - nothing new here, if one really knows anything about ruling classes
5) You see, As'ad and me know a bit about such thing as ruling classes - not just people with big money , but the distinct social group which has the distinct interests - usually to preserve their ruling position against ruled upon. They do not need any "conspiracy" to do it, no more than water has to conspire to flow down. Ruling class has means of production, means of production of propaganda including, and it hires professors to do ruling bidding, of course, some ruling classes in some cases could give professors a bit more freedom (at least as it seems) in case to bidding being more palatable for their students. Now, Zionists in USA just form a part of ruling class, and they are not even have to be Jewish. There is a whole lot of Zionist organisations whose sole purpose is to prevent any possible pro-Palestinian (factual) info being disseminated. They are not always victorious, but they do not need to be in case to scare into silence a lot of people. Some resist their pressure at great personal cost - like N.Finkelstain, for ex, and then they turn to bashers of Palestinian just case themselves - the same N.Finkelstain. Because as Marx put it, " The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas, i.e. the class which is the ruling material force of society, is at the same time its ruling intellectual force."

OK, I do not have much time to spare, just to let you know that your ideas could not be so "freely" yours. But one is not condemned to be a haples victim of ruling class propaganda, because still in class society there is class struggle and underclasses could have their own ideas if they work hard enough. One just has to look well and choose one's side - with rulers or against them. As'ad did it. You could also, if you really want. .

Thank you for giving me hope that one day one day I could think freely, break out from the grips of my masters and their tools, and realize the one and only Truth.

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