Saturday, August 26, 2006

Alexander Cockburn and the Humorless Left. Cockburn must have been deeply offended because I had declared a certain ostensible "interview" conducted by Turkish leftists with Hasan Nasrallah to be a hoax. I did not blame Counterpunch, and did not hold them responsible. I thought that I was doing them a free service. Here, Cockburn addresses the issue, without adding any thing to change my mind, and he does not seem convinced himself. He inexplicably refers to "blustering denunciation by As'ad AbuKhalil, on his Angry Arab website." What? What blustering denunciation? You judge for yourselves what I had said about it. Cockburn then refers to "the outburst on Angry Arab which seemed to verge on a sort of "proprietary" bark, almost as if he owned Nasrallah and resented trespass." He then adds: "There was even a whiff of orientalizing, about what a Shi'a leader should or should not be capable of saying." Oh, please spare me that Orientalist charge--I did not even know that Orientalism is a mere "whiff." Little did I know. No, Mr. Cockburn. I did not say that Shi`ites can't speak the leftist talk contained in the interview (there are scores of Shi`ite AbuKhalils in South Lebanon who talk that leftist talk)--I merely said that Nasrallah did not, and does not, use that language, and I am quite familiar with his style of speech. It may very well be a Shi`ite who said those words, but it was not Nasrallah. But Mr. Cockburn: if you remember my earlier brief and civil post on the matter, you realize that I did consider the possibility that Counterpunch did indeed publish an authentic interview with Hasan Nasrallah--Hasan Dib Nasrallah, the Lebanese grocer who was kidnapped in a "daring Israeli raid" near Ba`lbak." And Hasan Dib Nasrallah as I can tell from the interview does indeed speak an anti-imperialist discourse. Hasan Dib: who would have thought that your name would be so well-known that even interviews with you would appear on Counterpunch. Counterpunch does not know how certain it is that the interview is fake. There is a Central Information Unit in Hizbullah which distributes the transcript (in Arabic) of ALL interviews with Hasan Nasrallah (not the grocer) to the Lebanese and Arab media. And any interview with him would be considered front-page story. And Nasrallah gave only ONE interview since the war started--to Ghassan Bin Jiddu of AlJazeera. I don't want to make a big deal out of this lest I live up to the reputation that we radical leftists have for relishing internecine bloodlettings. Tomorrow on Counterpunch: an exclusive interview with the three dead Iranian bodies that were found in South Lebanon (the interview was conducted in Persian, and then translated into English). And I should say that I consider myself a fan of Alexander Cockburn (and of Counterpunch), and have admired his consistent courage and firm stance on Middle East issues (read his latest excellent article here). I also enjoy reading him: he, unlike Dennis Kucinich, is not boring at all. But the outburst of Cockburn to a light-hearted remark that I had made only reveals a deep problem that afflicts the American Left (the real left, and not the "Nation" magazine left)--and I consider Cockburn a real leftist--who am I to judge (except being the all-knowing, Wise One of course). Cockburn only reinforces the perception that is deeply held by non-leftists about leftists: that leftists have no sense of humor, and not even a sense of irony. So in the spirit of internationalist solidarity I say: lighten up, comrade Alexander. Finally, I think that I need to remind leftists out there: Hasan Nasrallah is NOT a leftist, ok? (his "interview" in Counterpunch notwithstanding)