Sunday, March 08, 2009

White Man and Paul Newman

I had posted on this days ago. Sean Lee responded and he sent me his response, which I would have posted anyway because a few sent it to me. Some friends felt that I was too harsh and too hasty--which is characteristic of me (politically speaking). But I don't take anything I said back. I wrote before about my usage of "the White Man": it is not a racial category--or it is not merely a racial category but also a political and epistemological category. I don't have time to write too much as I just arrived home but it is amazing how Lee misses the point and reveals the extent to which he is clueless about his White Man (and American) privilege at a place like AUB--a blatantly colonial and colonialist institution where Americans are treated in every way possible far better than the natives. They still import Americans who know little about the country to serve as deans of student affairs. And Lee deliberately ignores the issue of the Israel boycott (because he knows he is weak and did not expect the controversial potential) and focused on the censorship of Jewish matters. That was disingenuous on his part as I made it clear that such censorship should be removed. But I live in the US where some Arab TV stations are censored by the US government and listed as terrorist media. Would Lee speak on this matter, or has he spoken on this? And would my voice (and I am a US citizen here) make a difference? But he knows that the White Man at AUB has a perch, and he wanted to use it to make sure that people enjoy uncensored Jane Fonda and Paul Newman. He thereby trivializes the thrust of our boycott efforts: these are serious issues. I just don't get what some Westerners want us to do? Arabs are expected to refrain from armed struggle against Israeli occupation (even against Israeli terrorist soldiers) and now they want to even end peaceful and cultural forms of resistance. This is not government imposed: the governments impose various forms of censorship that he should have mentioned and should have brought up with his friend at the Ministry of Interior in Lebanon. Did he speak about the recent edict by the Maronite Church regarding the "Great Excommunication" against all those who criticize the Maronite Patriarch? But Lee showed the extent of his insensitivity when he said: "Finally, I’d like to ask my readers to perform a little thought experiment. Let’s say that someone from AIPAC had taken issue with something AbuKhalil had written and then decided to misrepresent him and call him out as the “Brown Man at California State University, Stanislaus” and imply that if he didn’t like American policies, he should just go back to Lebanon? What would AbuKhalil have to say about that?" Here, Mr. Lee you made my point for me. Are you really that oblivious? Are you really that unaware of your White Man privilege and of the plight of Arabs and Muslims in the US? Are you kidding me? I have lived here for some 25 years and I probably receive such hate and racist letters weekly or monthly. It is most regular for me to be told by people who don't like my views that I should leave the US. And mind you: I never asked you to leave Lebanon: I just asked you to understand that you are not living in colonial times and that Lebanon faces many dangers and wars of aggression from Israel's closest allies and that movies of Paul Newsman are not a priority for the people there. And don't mix censorship (and why did you only mention censorship of Jewish matters when there is censorship that is far more extensive that than) with the imperative of cultural boycott of Israel and all of its supporters worldwide. Paul Newman and Jane Fonda have lent their voices and money to Israeli wars of aggression and occupation, and this is not a joking matter. You may think that the people of Lebanon would benefit from movies of Paul Newsman but I think that they would benefit fare more if you called for the US to end its conditional support for Israeli crimes in Lebanon. And yes, I do impose boycott of Israel: just during my tour in UK, I ran into a graduate student. As I was talking to her, I noticed her accent. I asked if she was Israeli, and she said: yes. I asked her if she served in the Israeli army, and she said: yes. I told her that I could not deal with her because I can't deal with anybody who served in the Israeli terrorist army. She told me that she has changed and that she has become active against Zionism. I asked her if she has killed any of my people or injured any of the children in Palestine, and she said no. I asked her what she did in the army, and she said: she was an instructor. I asked her: so you basically taught them how to kill Arabs. She said: pretty much yes. So this matter of boycotting Israel is not a light or joking matter: not for me and not for most Arabs--with the exception of some of the Phoenicians in the so-called homeland of Lebanon. You ask: who would make such decisions? I tell you: I do for myself and others do for themselves, and if some visiting White Man thinks that he can preach ending the boycott in the name of civilization or enlightenment we would express our disagreement in clear and uncompromising terms. Your point about Newman is rather silly: you mention some other movies by Newman as if that would erase his propaganda and fundraising efforts on behalf of Israel and its wars. And more than one professor at AUB forwarded me what you wrote and many may fear if they speak up because it is...a colonial institution where the native professors have less freedom of speech than the visiting westerners. I don't mind and support any effort to end any censorship that is anti-Semitic in motives but that should go hand-in-hand with fighting political censorship here in the US against what Israel deems to be "Arab terrorist expression": a country that basically censored and repressed EVERY Palestinian organization in the US. That you didn't relate all that in your post says something--or confirms something that I had originally wrote.