America Seems to Embrace Arab Literary Figures in Inverse Proportion to Their Openness toward Israel

Over a decade ago, Peter Theroux participated in a panel discussion at Columbia University on the work of the Arab-Israeli writer and Communist Knesset member Emile Habibi (1922-1996), whose work he had translated into English. Reflecting on the experience, Theroux recalls the different ways the participants spoke of the country where their subject had lived:

Professor A noted Habibi’s literary achievements and attachment to Palestine, though she faulted his acceptance of the Israel Prize for Literature in 1992, which advanced the “Zionist project.” She went on for a little longer in the same vein, before concluding to loud applause. Elias Khoury, [the Lebanese novelist and PLO member], thumped the table with the palm of his hand in approval.

Professor B announced that he would read aloud from something he had composed on the redeye flight from the West Coast the night previous. He denounced the U.S. government’s detention and alleged torture of al-Qaeda terrorists in black sites, as well as the practice of translating foreign works into English (referencing colonialism and, in an anguished tone, “English, the hegemon”). My recollection is that he did not mention Habibi at all. The audience applauded him noisily, and Khoury thumped the table even harder.

These literary and academic figures had nothing to say, Theroux notes, about Habibi’s lifelong efforts to promote coexistence between Arabs and Israelis. Perhaps, he suggests, it would be both fair and useful to start judging the “authorial empathy” of Arab writers based on their ability to acknowledge “the world’s only post-Holocaust Jewish state.” And perhaps that ability should be compared with the extent of their acceptance in the West:

It probably is no surprise that acceptance, or not, of a secure Israel brought out the best or worst of these political Arab men of letters while providing a kind of quick X-ray of the inner integrity and therefore the lasting qualities of their own work. What gives me pause is how America has embraced them in inverse proportion to their openness toward the Jewish state. Khoury [and the likeminded, if less extreme, Saudi Arabian author] Abdelrahman Munif are Amazon celebrities. Habibi’s great Saraya, the subject of the memorable panel in the Upper West Side? The English translation celebrated that evening was published in Jerusalem, not New York.

Read more at Tablet

More about: al q, Anti-Zionism, Arabic literature, Israel on campus, Israeli Arabs, Translation

The Right and Wrong Ways for the U.S. to Support the Palestinians

Sept. 29 2023

On Wednesday, Elliott Abrams testified before Congress about the Taylor Force Act, passed in 2018 to withhold U.S. funds from the Palestinian Authority (PA) so long as it continues to reward terrorists and their families with cash. Abrams cites several factors explaining the sharp increase in Palestinian terrorism this year, among them Iran’s attempt to wage proxy war on Israel; another is the “Palestinian Authority’s continuing refusal to fight terrorism.” (Video is available at the link below.)

As long as the “pay for slay” system continues, the message to Palestinians is that terrorists should be honored and rewarded. And indeed year after year, the PA honors individuals who have committed acts of terror by naming plazas or schools after them or announcing what heroes they are or were.

There are clear alternatives to “pay to slay.” It would be reasonable for the PA to say that, whatever the crime committed, the criminal’s family and children should not suffer for it. The PA could have implemented a welfare-based system, a system of family allowances based on the number of children—as one example. It has steadfastly refused to do so, precisely because such a system would no longer honor and reward terrorists based on the seriousness of their crimes.

These efforts, like the act itself, are not at all meant to diminish assistance to the Palestinian people. Rather, they are efforts to direct aid to the Palestinian people rather than to convicted terrorists. . . . [T]he Taylor Force Act does not stop U.S. assistance to Palestinians, but keeps it out of hands in the PA that are channels for paying rewards for terror.

[S]hould the United States continue to aid the Palestinian security forces? My answer is yes, and I note that it is also the answer of Israel and Jordan. As I’ve noted, PA efforts against Hamas or other groups may be self-interested—fights among rivals, not principled fights against terrorism. Yet they can have the same effect of lessening the Iranian-backed terrorism committed by Palestinian groups that Iran supports.

Read more at Council on Foreign Relations

More about: Palestinian Authority, Palestinian terror, U.S. Foreign policy