Sunday, February 27, 2011

Ajami in the New York Times

When I was in Michigan, I saw a colleague of mine who expressed her astonishment at the latest pronouncements of Fouad Ajami.  She said that he does not sound his real self.  She asked me if I have been seeing him on CNN, and I explained that I don't watch US TV news at all.  She said that he was so enthusiastic and not like his usual self.  I said: we should not be fooled and that his Likudnik Zionism could explain anything he says.  I asked if he has said one negative word on Israel, and she said: no.  I said that Elliott Abrahms--one of his ilk--has also been enthusiastic about the changes in the Arab world.  And thus Ajami can only be explained in Zionist terms.  Sure enough, he came a few days later with his interview with Haaretz in which he declared once again his love for Israel.  Today, he has a long, tedious piece in the NYT.  I detested Ajami in the 1980s but I really enjoyed reading him (as I enjoy reading Bernard Lewis--until he started recycling himself in old age).  Now, I have to struggle to finish an article of his.  He keeps repeating himself and he uses the same old cliches, and his flowery phrases have not been updated since "The Arab Predicament" (a book that Hanna Batatu always described as a book with not many insights).  His piece today, draws upon notions of shame from Raphael Patai's The Arab Mind (look at this sentence:  "Shame — a great, disciplining force in Arab life of old — quit Arab lands.").  I once met a Kuwaiti student in Washington, DC back in 1993.  He told me that Ajami is not as bad as I think. I asked him to explain: he said, Ajami must have a secret plot to rise up in the US political establishment and then he would deliver.  I said sarcastically: deliver what? The liberation of Palestine?  Oh, and notice that Ajami in his long tedious piece says not one word about pro-US monarchies.  He mentions Syria many times but not one word about Gulf countries.