18 April 2007

Glass and Goodheart

I had hoped to avoid a post on the Middle East, but the Spring edition of Dissent carried an article on Hezbollah and I have been shocked by the number of (otherwise intelligent) people who wish to deny Hezbollah's antisemitism.

Eugene Goodheart exposes the underbelly of Charles Glass and the London Review of Books on this topic:

"The London Review of Books is an egregious instance of this one-sidedness. Almost every issue contains several articles devoted to attacks on Israel, and the target is not simply the governing party, but the whole spectrum of Israeli political life. Absent from the columns of the Review are the injustices and cruelties of political Islam. In an article by Charles Glass, Lebanon’s Hezbollah is eulogized for its capacity to learn from mistakes, its decency in treating prisoners, “its refusal to murder collaborators,” its intelligent use of “car bombs, ambushes, small rockets and suicide bombers.” Glass speaks of Hezbollah’s uncompromising political program, of which he apparently approves, without mentioning that at its core is the destruction of Israel. Any two-state solution requires a capacity and willingness to compromise, but compromise is anathema to Hezbollah. He claims that the movement had “jettisoned its early rhetoric about making Lebanon an Islamic republic, and [now] spoke of Christians, Muslims and Druze living in harmony.” Missing from this article (in the August 17, 2006, issue) is any reference to its anti-Semitism. In a letter to LRB printed in the September 7, 2006, issue, I pointed out that Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, is not simply a resistance fighter, he is also an anti-Semite with genocidal fantasies. I cited the following statements attributed to him: “If they [the Jews] all gather in Israel it will save us the trouble of going after them worldwide.” “They [the Jews] are a cancer which is liable to spread at any moment.” I also noted that the name “Party of God,” should worry anyone of enlightened, democratic persuasion, but does not seem to bother Glass. (Would he be equally indulgent of the religious fanatics in Israel who assert their divine right to Greater Israel?) Parties of God, wherever they are to be found, mean tyranny should they ever acquire power. In the article, Glass mentions the fact that he had been kidnapped by Hezbollah at a Syrian checkpoint. Wanting to prove that the movement was independent of Syrian control, he writes that when “Syria insisted that I be released to show that Syrian control of Lebanon could not be flouted [,] Hezbollah, unfortunately, ignored the request.” What virtue! In my letter, I wondered whether he had not succumbed to Stockholm syndrome.

His response, printed in the October 5, 2006, issue, focused on the anti-Semitic statements attributed to Nasrallah, which he dismissed as fabrications, “circulated widely on neo-conservative web sites.” Whatever the agenda of the Web sites, the original source of the statements, as Glass’s letter makes clear, is “an article by Badih Chayban in Beirut’s English-language Daily Star in 23 October 2002.” The newspaper sympathizes with Palestinian aspirations and is critical of American neoconservatism. Glass reports that the managing editor of the Star has “faith in neither the accuracy of the translation (from Arabic to English) nor of the agenda of the translator [Chayban].” The editor in chief of the paper refers to Chayban as “a reporter and briefly local desk sub,” who did not interview Nasrallah. Glass does not explain why, given its misgivings about the reporter, the Star would choose to publish Chayban’s article, nor does he say what Chayban’s agenda was, leaving it to the reader to assume that the agenda was somehow linked to neoconservatism, therefore discrediting the attribution of the statements to Nasrallah. The source of one of the quotations was a Web site of the Israeli government and therefore not to be trusted. To clinch the argument, Glass cites a spokeswoman for Hezbollah who denies that such statements were ever made.

I wrote back to the LRB, first noting that in invoking the nefarious neocons as the vehicles of fabrication, Glass reminded me of the apologists for the Soviet Union who denied the existence of anti-Semitism in their beloved country, because the reports of its existence came from the bourgeois press. I challenged the LRB to make a disinterested effort to determine whether these statements were fabrications. Its animus against Israel was clear and bad enough; a willingness to indulge anti-Semitism, a much more serious matter. If they are not fabrications, the journal has a moral obligation to say so and to repudiate the kind of article that Glass has written.

While waiting for a reply, I decided to look into the literature on Hezbollah, and what I found left no doubt about its view of the Jews. Here is Nasrallah in one of his diatribes against Israel: “If we searched the entire world for a person more cowardly, despicable, weak and feeble in psyche, mind, ideology and religion, we would not find anyone like the Jew. Notice I do not say the Israeli.”[1]
Quoted in Amal Saad-Ghorayeb, Hizbu’llah: Politics and Religion, University of Michigan Press, 2001, p. 170. Original source, televised interview, Muhammad Fnayash. Wuhhat Nazar Future Television (FTV, July 2, 1997). Naim Qassem, the deputy secretary general of Hezbollah, author of Inside Hezbollah, which Charles Glass cites for its humane view of how collaborators with Israel should be treated, has this to say: “The history of the Jews has proven that, regardless of the Zionist proposal, they are a people who are evil in their ideas” (Quoted in Saad-Ghorayeb, p. 174; original source, Abbas al-Mussawi, Amiru’l-Zakira, Dhu al-Hujja 1406). Hezbollah’s denial of the existence of the Holocaust takes many forms. “The Jews have never been able to prove the existence of the infamous gas chambers.” Only “160,000 civilians died [and this was] as a result of US bombing of Germany.” Jews collaborated with the Nazis in killing their brethren: “From what we know about the Jews, their tricks and their deception, we do not think it unlikely that they partook in the planning of the Holocaust.” Saad-Ghorayeb, the source of these quotes, is a Briton of Muslim Lebanese extraction, who is sympathetic to Hezbollah. “As a Lebanese, I was appalled by the apparent ease with which this movement was accused of sundry terrorist activities by Western journalists and policy-makers, and on their insistence on referring to its guerrilla fighters, who were practicing their legitimate right to resist a foreign occupation, as terrorists.” She writes favorably of Hezbollah’s political evolution in Lebanese society, so there is no reason to doubt the scholarly accuracy of her representation of the movement’s unreconstructed view of Israel and the Jews. (As I write this, I am pleased to see a letter to the LRB from the distinguished lawyer and literary scholar Anthony Julius, citing Saad-Ghorayeb as evidence for Hezbollah’s anti-Judaism. Julius invited Glass to confirm the implication of his response to my letter that I am wrong in attributing anti-Semitism to Hezbollah and to comment on the “material assembled by Saad-Ghorayeb.” So far there has been no reply from Glass, nor any statement from the editors on the matter.)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Good to see someone exposing the pretentions and hypocrisy of the supposedly 'intellectual' LRB. The objection, as you point out, is not so much that it regularly carries venomously anti-Isreal material by the likes of Charles Glass and Iian Pappe, but that this is not balanced by any similar criticisms of Islamism, anti-semitism or even aguments for "two states". Its editor also suppresses articles (and, I suspect, letters) that challenge her crude "anti imperialist" view of the world. I cancelled my subscription years ago.
-Jim Denham