Tuesday, October 30, 2012

American "leftists" whitewash Nasrallah

[Originally posted at NOW Lebanon]

Eager as they ever are to believe that no enemy of Israel can go far wrong, two prominent figures on the American “left” have penned a righteous critique of what they call a “disastrous” and “embarrassing” New York Times op-ed that portrays Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah as anti-Semitic.

Not the easiest blemish to brush off, one might have thought, but then such people are well-practiced in furnishing bigots with excuses they haven’t and wouldn’t make for themselves. After claiming the particular “supposedly anti-Jewish” quote attributed to Nasrallah in the Times is “in all likelihood a fabrication,” Phil Weiss and Max Blumenthal proceed to paste a lengthy tract by “widely-published Marxist thinker” Louis Proyect, who has concluded after “assiduous” research that there isn’t a scrap of evidence—anywhere—implicating Nasrallah in any kind of funny business on the Jewish question.

Now, the Times article certainly wasn’t fantastic, and I happen to share Weiss’ and Blumenthal’s distaste for the manner in which Israel’s defenders cry “pogrom” at the mildest political criticism. Yet as a secularist who actually lives in Lebanon, I’ve long wearied of reading hagiographies of the “Party of God” from pseudo-dissidents and laptop-Leninists 7,000 miles away.

Weiss and Blumenthal are probably right that the quote (“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”) comes from Amal Saad-Ghorayeb’s Hizbullah: Politics & Religion. Though it purports to quote Nasrallah, the footnote in fact cites an interview with Hezbollah MP Muhammad Fneish on August 15, 1997.

Thereafter, however, the writers quickly wade far out of their depth. Put aside the fact that Nicholas Noe, editor of the party-approved Voice of Hezbollah: The Statements of Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah says the quote is genuine after all. Even if it were a fake, what Weiss and Blumenthal damningly omit to mention—presumably because they haven’t actually read her book—is that Saad-Ghorayeb also produces a number of further statements, directly attributed to Nasrallah, that are—how to put it?—difficult to read as philo-Semitic. These include:

· That Jews are “renowned for breaching covenants and promises, even with God and the prophets” (p. 171 in the 2002 Pluto Press paperback version; citing Nasrallah in Amiru’l-Zakira, February 23, 1992, p. 139).

· That Jews are “the enemies of God [and] humankind” (p. 175; citing a Nasrallah speech in Beirut’s southern suburbs on August 8, 1997).

· That God “imprinted blasphemy” on the Jews’ hearts (p. 176; citing Nasrallah, August 8, 1997).

· That the Jews fabricated the Holocaust in order to advance their plot to control the world (pp. 181-2; citing a Nasrallah speech in Beirut’s southern suburbs on “Jerusalem Day,” January 24, 1998).

When I pointed this out to Blumenthal on Monday morning, he replied, “I do not consider [Saad-Ghorayeb] reliable, though I don’t doubt Nasrallah has used some f’ed up rhetoric.” Regarding the first half of that statement, one might direct his attention to, say, this video from 2006, in which Nasrallah begins by lamenting that Salman Rushdie hasn’t been murdered yet, and then goes on to say the following:

“A few years ago, a great French philosopher, Roger Garaudy, wrote a scientific book […] in which he discussed the alleged Jewish Holocaust in Germany. He proved that this Holocaust is a myth. The great French philosopher Roger Garaudy was put [on] trial […] Why? Because freedom of expression extends [only] to the Jews.”

Regarding the second half, if Blumenthal was already in no doubt that Nasrallah was an anti-Semite, why did he contribute to an article strongly suggesting the very opposite might be the case? A curious undertaking for any “leftist,” let alone one who so piously accused Christopher Hitchens of “enabling Holocaust-deniers” (echoing—hilariously enough—Henry Kissinger, who quickly shut up after Hitchens’ lawyers threatened a libel suit). Curious also that the argument the authors set out to disprove—namely, that certain elements on the “left” are too ready to give the benefit of the doubt to Jew-baiters—is ultimately the one they succeed in advancing.

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