October 23, 2006

Character assassin? Moi?

I've had an interesting comment to my post on Elia Suleiman's suspension of his signature from a call to boycott Israeli cultural institutions.
Being a fan of your blog, I am distressed by your entry on Elia Suleiman.

Suleiman's letter could be better written. His failure to be specific makes it very difficult to understand what behavior exactly he is condemning. And his choice of action may or may not be the wisest action to take against what he condemned. It has certainly emboldened Zionists opponents of the boycott, and that is unfortunate.

You can read the full original letter here: http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/H...0610/

However, instead of asking for clarification, you have taken to character assasination, insinuating that Suleiman is criticizing whomever he is criticizing to please Zionists and advance his career. Maybe he is, although I seriously doubt it. But what about the benefit of the doubt? Suleiman is a prominant palestinian artist with impeccable credentials and his words deserve a charitable interpretation. He deserves that we listen to him seriously and consider his criticism as the words of a friend. It does us no good when we watch each other for ideological heresy instead of listening to and conversing with each other. The left has destroyed itself many times over with this attitude.

You say "He is equating a cultural boycott of a racist state with the behaviour of the racist state itself." That is not accurate. He sees a common denominator between the way some individuals or institutions have acted, allegedly in the name of boycotting a racist state, and the behavior of that racist state. Below are his exact words:

I am nevertheless appalled that these Palestinian and Lebanese artists, themselves victims of Israeli military policies and layers of occupations, can turn at such ease and mimic the power of authority of their own oppressors and conduct exclusionist policies, excommunications and random intellectual lynching, all of which is tinted by chauvinism and other heresies that stem from the dark side of nationalism.

Since he gave no example of what behavior he condemns, I can't judge whether he is right or wrong, but there is no reason to believe that, a priory, nobody can behave in a racist way that resembles the actions and/or motivations of the state of Israel.

As quoted above, Juliano Mer has later added more concrete examples:

At a film festival in Sicily, the cultural representative of Egypt left the audience during the screening of "Arna's Children" in protest against what she called the positive representation of a Jewish woman who helped the Arabs. She claimed that this was Zionist propaganda. In Hungary, the Palestinian community boycotted the film simply because I, the director, am an Israeli.

These are examples of behavior that is either chauvinist, racist or cynical, which are three atributes I'm quite comfortable associating with Israeli Apartheid.

The movement to Boycott Israeli institutions is very important. For this very reason, it should be intelligent, principled and open to internal criticism. Those who use it to hide their own complicity in supporting Zionism, like that "cultural representative" of Hosni Mubarak, are not allies.

I would like to invite you to listen again carefully to what Suleiman is saying, and to do so critically, but in the spirit of friendship.


Evildoer - g.a.evildoer@gmail.com
Well first up, character assassination was not my intention. Nor was it my intention to suggest that the suspension of his signature from the boycott call was a calculated career move. I expressed myself badly.

I actually think that both Elia Suleiman and Juliani Mer Khamis have raised a very important issue though had I have known about these individual boycott actions I doubt if I would have condemned them in the same way that these guys have. My main point was that I thought that Elia Suleiman's action was destructive; with hindsight, at least as destructive as the specific actions decried by Juliani Mer Khamis. That's all. But where can one engage with Suleiman given that he has gone so public? Also I must add that his use of the language of the occupation - "checkpoints," "ID," even "facing the wall" - do amount to equivalence on the question of the structure of the State of Israel and the occupation on the one hand and the victimisation of this or that Israeli in the cultural sphere on the other.

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