Arab Uprising Puts Palestinian Intelligentsia On Defensive

My antennae began twitching this morning when I saw Dr. Ahmed Tibi engaged in some damage control this morning. You see, Tibi visited Libya last year — a delegation of Arab-Israeli leaders were guests of Col. Gadaffi on a trip subsidized by the Libyan government.

Tibi’s aware that these days, Latin American autocrats are the only people who think Gadaffi’s cool. So he understands he has some ‘splaining to do. Tibi told Haaretz:

“I admit the connection with the Arab world is one that involves non-democratic regimes. There’s a difference between visiting and being loyal to or trailing after one regime or another. I am saying clearly and unambiguously that a visit does not constitute an expression of support for Gadhafi‘s policy in Libya – and such things were said there. For example, I personally expressed criticism of the backwardness in the world as a result of certain regimes, and the fact that rights are not granted to citizens.”


That doesn’t jive with some withering criticisms of Tibi’s sniveling group. The respected Druze pote, Salman Mashala, wrote:

But wonder of wonders, all of a sudden they all came together to fly off and enjoy the hospitality of none other than Muammar Gadhafi, the man who more than anyone else represents the ugly side of the Arab regimes, the tribal autocracy. This capricious and unpredictable individual can unblinkingly say one thing and the opposite in the same breath, and no one will dare to ask him to explain, out of fear that the question will be the last he ever asks.

After a meal offered by their host came the groveling speeches, which included all the tired old slogans and the superlatives that despots of the lowest kind expect to hear about themselves . . .

It must be said loud and clear: Not only are such trips by Arab representatives to kowtow before Arab despots an insult to the intelligence, they also harm the just struggle of this country’s Arab minority. Just by going to such places and saying what they say there, they are deepening mainstream Israeli society’s rejection of the Arabs – the rejection against which they have been fighting a just fight for years. By not resisting the temptation to accept the invitations of Arab dictators, whoever they happen to be, they become tools of those dictators.

Which brings us to Edward Said. What would the late Palestinian thinker have said about the Arab uprising?

Turns out that Said said nothing about Arab democracy. Zero. David Burchell explains:

Said fitted himself perfectly to the needs of our era: though his entire adult life was spent in Manhattan, he purported to present the authentic voice of Arab victimhood to an intelligentsia yearning to reject everything their own countries stood for, as an act of spiritual self-purification . . .

Said’s acolytes are probably less familiar with the articles he wrote over many years for the Egyptian state press – articles devoid of the criticism of any existing Arab government; (least of all Mubarak’s); and which reduce all the problems of the Arab world to the actions of those two familiar pantomime villains, the US and Israel. You will not be surprised to hear that Said had nothing whatever to say about Libya’s absurd Mussolini imitator, Gaddafi – except to heap abuse upon the US when it responded to the colonel’s various terrorist provocations.

Which brings me to Burchell’s conclusion:

What seems obvious about the young Libyans in the streets of Tobruk, Benghazi and Tripoli – like young Iranians and Egyptians, and quite possibly many Syrians and Saudis too – is that they no longer want any truck with those miserable self-serving fantasies of Arab victimhood and Zionist sorcery. Instead, they merely want to live – as Said was lucky enough to do – in a “normal” country, where their persons will be treated with dignity and their views with respect.

The Arab uprising is destroying a lot of long-held assumptions about the centrality of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to regional stability and Arab dignity. That raises a lot of uncomfortable questions for the Palestinian intelligentsia, and everyone else with a stake in delegitimizing Israel.

And it’s all just in time for what’s shaping up to be the most interesting Israel-Apartheid Week yet . . .