An open letter to Fouad Ajami on his misrepresentation of the Arab revolutions

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Neocon Fouad Ajami lately published an attack on the Palestinians in the Wall Street Journal— an unfiltered anthology of Israeli myths and lies, revisionist history, misrepresentation of the Arab revolution, and so forth; dismissing the UN statehood effort. I wrote out a letter, an e-mail really, to Ajami only to find that he does not have a listed e-mail. Odd, considering he’s an academic who frequently publishes. I guess he does not want to hear any rebuttals.

I kind of felt like kicking myself after I had written so lengthy a letter and now without anything to do with it. Then I thought maybe it could be an open letter.


I have read your books and try to read all your WSJ contributions, but this is the first time I have decided to reply in a (open) letter. I hope you’ll do the same, a simple courtesy, and fully read this letter. 

I never truly appreciated your callousness and proclivity to pander to American Zionists until I read your recent op-ed in the WSJ dismissing the forthcoming Palestinian statehood declaration. Even for a page that features the likes of Bret Stephens, it was filled with casual lies and distortion of history, and adopted so uncritically the Israeli narrative, in a pathetic effort to cater to the “White Man”.

You say the Palestinians and Arabs rejected partition and chose war with the Zionists, but I know you know that the Zionists were working with the Hashemite kingdom to sabotage any truncated Palestinian state. Even if the Palestinians accepted the principle that they should attend to Western hearts and guilt by sacrificing their own land and accepted a partition plan whereby the one-third population of Jews, overwhelmingly recent immigrants, nay colonizers, should receive 55% of Palestine while the two-thirds population of indigenous Palestinians should redraw their borders to solely 41% of their homeland (I am sure it is superfluous to remind you that Jerusalem was proscribed an international zone on 4% of the land), an absurd partition plan, unprecedented in history where colonization is bestowed not just with recognition but with an even more favorable condition than the natives (it is not as if the Palestinians were accorded even a majority of the land, how did they the actual majority of the people get less than half? and they are supposed to be the bad guy and ingrates for not accepting this handed down injustice?!). But even if the Palestinians accepted this cruelty, the Zionists and Hashemites were in agreement that no Palestinian state should come into being. The Zionists – then and now – believe that Zionism cannot survive unless the natives are denied their rights. It was not the Palestinians who sought to deny the Jews, since Palestinian nationalism does not deny Jews their rights as individuals, but the Zionists who were not content to deny simply Palestinian statehood but the very idea of a Palestinian people, to quote your inspirer Golda Meir.

And your nonsense about combined Arab armies, meant to convey a massive Arab force seeking to overrun a underdog Jewish force, is further disinformation when you know that the Arab forces were 1) late to the game 2) 1/3 of the combined force of the Zionists 3) poorly armed as opposed to the Zionists who had superior weapons, procured weapons, including bombers from sympathetic Americans, and even violated the ceasefire agreement to purchase weapons and 4) the Arabs were so poorly organized that they were at times shooting at one another and 5) most of the Arab armies never even crossed into the territory allocated for the colonial Jewish state. And besides, the Zionists had ethnically cleansed hundreds of thousands of Palestinians even before a single Arab army declared war, whatever the merit of that declaration.

Contrary to your Zionist propaganda, the Palestinians did not flee on their own accord, but were massacred and compelled to flee under threat of further violence. You cite Jaffa, the Palestinians in Jaffa, then Palestine’s greatest city and so important that it was carved out by the United Nations as part of the Arab state, an Arab island of 70,000 citizens, enveloped by the Jewish state next to Tel Aviv in the partition. In Jaffa, the people were pushed into the sea by the Zionists who later posed as victims of Arabs who were allegedly seeking to do unto them what they had cruelly did to the Palestinians. Jaffa was the victim of a barrage of rockets, you know the ones Israel whines about today, by Menachem Begin’s Stern gang, leading to tens of thousands to escape (what they thought temporary) via ferry to Beirut. But the Zionists made sure there was no return. And Begin used Jaffa as a way to prove his Zionist bona fides. For it was the Zionists who refused to accept an Arab city in their generous 55% allocation. (who has the sense of entitlement? forgive the Palestinians for actually believing they have a right to their country).

It is fallacious that you seek to position Arab Jews as comparable to Palestinian refugees, a Zionist gimmick. In no way to lessen their plight, but their tragedy is not the same: it was a migration or forced exodus over decades, greatly encouraged by the Zionists, and many were allowed to sell their property, and they deserve compensation and return, but that is a separate issue for which the Palestinians do not need to answer. Your statement about the Beirut of your dreams and the Jewish quarter being a Hezbollah enclave, what further fabrication! The Jewish quarter is in Beirut’s Sunni dominated central district and the Maghen synagogue has been recently renovated, that entire area is as much a Hezbollah stronghold as the Wall Street Journal’s editorial board is dominated by leftists. Hezbollah wouldn’t dare to even step foot next to Lebanese Sunnis who detest it. And are you ever reminiscent about the lost quarters of the Palestinians? I am sure you know this but I guess without such nonsense and pandering you would not be part of the club, and not get published. Sell your soul to be treated like a human being by America’s fanatical pro-Israel elites.

One last point: Nothing was more egregious than your patently false statement that the Arabs in Tunis, Cairo, et al have not raised the banner of Palestine since the revolution began. Of course, if you read Arabic newspapers, and I am sure you do, you know that many Egyptians have been open about their disdain for Israel, a wish to end the shameful bought “peace” of Sadat, attacking Mubarak-Suleiman as stooges, and proudly raising the flag of Palestine. But if you choose to adopt the Tom Friedman nonsense that the revolutions have no foreign policy implications, that’s your wish to ignore reality. Palestine is there, it is always there for Arabs.

Let me conclude by stating that I am a Tunisian living in America and I watched every moment of my birth nation and its revolution in exhilarating and tearful excitement. Do not use the rising up of the Arab people as a fig leaf in your silly and inferiority-minded polemics. No Tunisian would ever dignify you, for you readily humiliate yourself. An Arab like yourself, so eager to cast aspersions on the Palestinians people, who have suffered so much and so unfairly, no, this moment is not for you. You do not share it with us. We do not wish to have you. Please, no longer wish us Arabs goodwill for we do not seek it from such a hand. On the day of the Tunisian revolution, an al Jazeera screen grab casually captured a Palestinian flag hanging from a Tunisian apartment balcony. Palestine always waves high for the Arabs, it is always there, Tunisians have not forgotten it and have shouted, in an amendment, “The people want the liberation of Palestine”.

Nothing is more vulgar than to use the Arab revolution to advance your anti-Palestinian cause, the revolution does not vindicate you, it refutes you. Palestine will only rise in a free Arab world. It is your tyrants Ben Ali, Mubarak and al-Saud who sought to deny Palestine in the Arab conscience. Every Arab knows that the Arab revolution will not be complete until Palestine is free. A cursory run through a Tunisian Facebook page will show that Palestine is still the heart of the Arab people. So, please, at least have the decency to acknowledge that you are not part of the Arab moment, rejected by the Arab people and further pulling yourself away, and that you may never awake from your slumber to recognize the justice of the Palestinian cause and call yourself an Arab, head held high.

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