Abulhawa declines to ‘balance out’ several Israelis in ‘Al Jazeera’ forum on Nakba

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A lot of people have sent me a piece by novelist Susan Abulhawa at The Palestine Chronicle about refusing to participate in a forum on the Nakba on Al Jazeera’s social media show, the Stream, because it would feature three or four Israelis. Titled “Are Israelis Now Appropriating the Nakba?” the piece begins by quoting the email traffic between herself and the producer. After Abulhawa said she wasn’t interested, the unnamed producer persisted, saying he needed her “to balance things out.”

He continued, “As you noted, it would be 3-4 Israelis and just the one Palestinian – but as I said, the Israeli’s will include those very critical of Israeli society on this issue. We certainly wont have anyone in the discussion who flat out denies the Nakba.”

Here is an excerpt of Abulhawa’s piece, in which she describes why she finds the forum “appalling”:

After thoughtful consideration and rumination on my initial impulse to refuse, I responded as follows:

“I have considered your invitation and it frankly pains me that you would conceive of such a forum.  However, I suspect that others may consider going the same route in the future and I am willing to come on merely to repudiate and discourage such a conversation from taking place again.  As such, I would appear only under the following circumstances:

1. I do not agree to any form of “conversation” with Israelis about the Nakba, and that must be made clear.
2. Per the above, the show must be split somehow whereby I would follow whatever discussion you had with them. I do not agree to any exchange with them; but i will agree to a discussion with the interviewer afterward about whatever is said.”…

Since we must perpetually put our pain in the form of analogies in order to facilitate empathy, let me do that to start off.

Imagine Germany never acknowledged the Jewish holocaust.  Imagine, we are living in an era where Jews are still fighting for basic recognition of their pain.  Then imagine that on the day in which Jews engage in solemn remembrance of their greatest collective wound, television shows choose to feature German sons and daughters of Nazis in a discussion expressing differing views on whether or not and/or how Germany should deal with the memory of the genocide their country committed.  And imagine, of course, there is a token Jew “to balance out” such an ill-timed and inappropriate public conversation.

Here is the Al Jazeera show as it ran. Titled “Israel’s fractured memory: Are Israelis ready to include the Palestinian Nakba tragedy in their independence narrative?,” it featured four Israelis and one Palestinian: journalist Lia Tarachansky, filmmaker Amos Geva, Ran Bario Bar-Yoshafat of the Jewish Agency, Eitan Bronstein of  Zochrot, and Palestinian activist Adrieh Abou Shehadeh.

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