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By ALON WEINBERG
Bernie,
 I read your entire Short Takes (Feb. 18 issue) and am troubled by lots of it, and not from an ideological point of view but from a media criticism point of view and from a view that you are either more to the hard right in your views than you realize, or that you have simply accepted right-wing terms of discussion, or feel the need to rely on them to counter leftist views you disagree with, rather than to flesh out a more nuanced discourse so many of us are craving....


Here are some issues I have. I am sure you will hear more from IJV members and others who will pick up on various aspects of the arguments, but from my point of view I am simply disappointed after having read your piece. I feel it lacks some nuance that is needed:
* I don’t think you quite got the academic boycott piece correct. Actually I was going to tweet you during the event but then he addressed your concerns, and I saw you aren’t too active a Twitter user (nor am I, but it’s a good tool for live info-sharing). From my draft:
“*the academic boycott is on institutions not individual academics - ah, Halper finally said it:
http://www.bdsmovement.net/activecamps/academic-boycott
Worth reading if you haven’t as it spells out the position very clearly. I am not a strong proponent of academic boycott, but when I consider the position, it is cogent as a tool to accomplish the movement’s aims and coherently expressed.
*I think your dismissal of Muhammed - refusing to call him Prophet Muhammed - is reactionary and unfriendly. Yes, it’s in the context of a discourse gone mad with violence, but in simply and categorically dismissing him, you dismiss and I think rightfully OFFEND average, decent Muslims. You have every right to do so, and perhaps as editor of a paper in solidarity with Charlie et. al. chose to do so but I think your tone undermines much work that people are doing around these parts to build bridges of tolerance and respect between and among communities and individuals. Whatever YOU think of Muhammed, one the 3 major western, monotheistic religions sees him as a prophet. If you aren’t comfortable saying “prophet Muhammed” because of your beliefs, saying “Muhammed” might have been enough. As worded, one could fairly accuse you or the paper of anti-Muslim bias. And that would undermine your paper’s position as a moderate voice.
*I want to say that I left the event feeling like it had failed to some degree because there was a lack of dialogue. I don’t feel like it is fair to blame Jeff; I was waiting throughout for you to interrupt and to bring the debate into sharper focus. Maybe it needed a moderator to reign in Jeff - he is an academic after all by background - but also maybe you were being too Canadian and not enough Israeli and should have just butted in a bit more. I found your posture at the event very passive. It seems a bit irresponsible to not have tried more and then to write a piece after the fact saying people like him are not interested in dialogue. Maybe much of what he said cannot be refuted by fact; you did make it clear in your piece that what you reject is the framing of Israel. But framing is only part of the discourse - beyond that there are facts and policies and real lived experiences in the region that can’t be ignored. Jeff’s strength is his ability to frame. I didn’t see you make enough effort to struggle to reframe in person, which leads to my next point...
*Your framing of people who come to hear Halper as ‘anti-Israel advocates’ is false and outdated. There are many people who see themselves as struggling for human rights and humanism who attend these lectures, and many of us are pro-Israel just as the humanist Zionists Halper was inspired by cannot be framed as anti-Israel: A.D. Gordon, Ahad Ha’am, people like Gush Shalom’s Uri Avnery, etc. The frame of people struggling for equal rights as being ‘anti-Israel’ means through transitive property (think geometry) Israel is anti-human-rights. Do you accept this?
These frames are consciously constructed by the right wingers that you yourself claim to disavow. That you would use them without second thought suggests you accept as mainstream a discourse on Israel that has drifted so far to the right — or else you think countering what is a far-leftist discourse with right-wing frames is somehow fair and balanced. This discursive polarity IS a big part of the problem and I thought you were past it. Throwing ethnic groups (Mennonites) and religious folk (United Church) under this lens is also very irresponsible. As you know there is  also a Mennonite contingent quite “pro-Israel” under your framing of the discussion in Manichean “pro-con” terms: think Vic Toews and ilk.
*You missed a great part of the evening in your coverage, and that is Jeff Halper’s frank discussion of why he lives in and loves Israel. I had never heard him talk about this. He talked about being tied to roots and in doing so made a bold statement that would be rebutted by a certain portion of the critical left, like Edward Said, Steven Salaita and that line of critique: he said quite explicitly that Israel is not a settler-colonialist state, that Jews have a strong historic tie to the land, and that he rejects that narrative. Knowing the positions of the critical left, I found that a strong statement on his part and nuanced part of who he is and how he fits into Israeli society that is completely missed by the coarse “pro-con” frame. (It shows there is a continuum of dissent and views on Israel).
*Talking about the dictatorship in Egypt as what Muslims are doing one to another is troubling. I would have said “what people are doing to each other in Muslim countries.” Remember, the brutal crackdowns in Egypt were on both humanist/student-movement types - the liberal movement - AND more brutally on the Muslim Brotherhood, itself flawed. Are al-Sisti and Mubarak actually living out Islam - are they Muslims - or do they abuse Islam in their roles? The secondary point which may be more important though maybe goes beyond the scope of your article, but since you brought it up, is that Israel and the US are all-too-happy to see the dictatorship restored in Egypt and at this point seem to consider it a better friend than the Egyptian liberal movement would have been had it taken power. The frame now shifts to being: in the name of anti-Islamist government in Egypt, Israel and the US prefer a brutal dictatorship. Democratic liberalism is thus an afterthought, as chief in their minds is OPPOSING Islamist government. Whose fault is the under-reporting on Egypt? It is an under-reporting of a convenient dictatorship that is the current problem. (I add here, and should have added: there are many people active in the Egyptian democracy movement from abroad, probably as many or more as are engaged in Palestinian rights).