It has become customary for Arabs invited on Western TV news programs to be asked, off the bat, to condemn this or that act that Israel classifies as terrorism.
When I came to the U.S. in 1983, this was already standard practice. But back then, the Palestinian “terrorists” were secular: so the media propaganda talked about the dangerous communist connections of the Palestinian Liberation Organization.
Islamists were then treated with tenderness and even admiration. They were on the side of the U.S. in the Cold War and the U.S. and Saudi Arabia recruited from among them for the war in Afghanistan.
In the 1980s, the “terrorist” menace was coming from Lebanon. When I appeared on the major networks (shortly after my arrival in Washington, D.C.), I was constantly asked to condemn this or that attack in Lebanon or in Palestine.
At first, I obliged but then started thinking about the implications of such a ritual. You don’t get a seat (token at best) at the table unless you condemn, and according to Israeli definitions of terrorism and morality.
In the 1980s, Arabs were also asked if they recognized the state of Israel. What does that mean? Let us say that you are a Palestinian born in Haifa or Jaffa. If you were to recognize the state of Israel you are basically recognizing the legitimacy of the land grab of your home and the forced expulsion of your parents and grandparents from Palestine.
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If an Arab were to recognize the state of Israel, he or she would be accepting the fundamental racist inequality upon which the state of Israel was founded.
And what if you are a secular person who does not accept a Muslim state or a Jewish state or a Christian state? In the West, you can be opposed (nay you are expected to be opposed) to the Islamic regime in Iran from a secular point of view, but you are considered anti-Semitic if you were to object to the religious identity of the state of Israel.
Even “excessive” criticisms of Israel earn you the label of anti-Semitism (if you follow the State Department’s definition).
Meanwhile, “excessive” criticism of Iran or Saudi Arabia are not considered tantamount to Islamophobia. Clearly, special standards are applied to Israel to shield it from criticism and classification while special standards are applied on the Palestinian people to prevent them from opposing Israel, militarily or even peacefully (the BDS movement is now illegal, or severely discouraged, by more than 35 states in the U.S.).
For the West, the Palestinians have to enjoy Israeli occupation in order to prove their membership in the human race.
I have watched Arab guests in recent weeks appearing on Western TV news shows and they were invariably asked that same question. Do you condemn Hamas? Do you condemn the attack? Do you believe that Hamas should be eliminated, yes or no?
(And it would be hard to explain to these TV hosts that this movement — like it or hate it — has captured the support of at least half of the Palestinian people.) I have imagined myself in that chair and imagined my responses to those asinine questions.
Turning the Tables
I would answer as follows: In what capacity are you asking me that question? How did you, the journalist, become my judge or my priest? And why are you treating me like an accused in a court of law and not as a guest in a TV studio?
Also what made you feel morally superior to me to determine the manner in which I can prove my worthiness as a human being? Why is my citizenship conditional to the correct answer to the question, merely due to my ethnic background as an Arab?
Why isn’t the humanity of someone who is Israeli-born conditioned on his/her condemnation, not of one attack, but of a series of war crimes from the day Israel was born atop an existing and thriving Palestinian nation?
In fact, I need to turn the tables on you. I ask you, since Israel killed Palestinians at the rate of at least one a day last year alone, did you condemn those murders daily? If you condemned those murders, I would deem you morally qualified to demand that litmus test from me. If, on the other hand, you failed to condemn every one of those murders, then I regard you as morally failing and utterly unqualified to pose questions as the morally superior human on this show.
I in fact, am more qualified to pose that question to you. I am the judge, not you. I am a victim of Israeli war crimes who grew up subjected to weekly Israeli bombardment in Lebanon (against Palestinians and Lebanese, civilians and combatants alike, with little regard for the distinctions as Israeli bombing was fairly indiscriminate).
I should be coming to the U.S. to hold you to account for your official military and financial sponsorship or Israeli war crimes against me. I, a human who barely survived the Israeli invasion of 1982 and the subsequent savage siege of Beirut, refuse to be asked to condemn anything from anyone, especially someone in the West working for a media that specializes in condoning Israeli war crimes.
Holding the West Accountable
You in the West are the ones who should be held accountable and forced to offer rituals of condemnations as Israeli war crimes have continued unabated, with full Western blessings, since the founding of the state.
[Related: Craig Murray: Condemnation]
In fact, Israeli mass violence against Arabs began as early as the 1890s, by the account of the leader of Cultural Zionism, Ahad Ha’am, who scolded the Zionist settlers in Palestine for mistreating and abusing Arabs and thinking of them like animals.
I need to ask you all in Western media about your criminal responsibility for covering the Middle East region with ignorance and racism and for disregarding and distorting Arab views and for ignoring Arab suffering. That Western media and governments don’t value human lives equally between Arabs and Israelis is not something that has to be proven. It is too obvious to need documentation.
You invite us Arabs on your shows and start bombarding us on behalf of the state of Israel as soon as we are seated.
Your objectivity is something that we mock. Objectivity is a trick that you apply to the media of developing countries to force them to adhere to your political standards; it also allows Western powers to impose a hegemony of ideas especially in times of war and occupation (their wars and occupations).
As far as condemnation is concerned, I condemn you all for your racism, unprofessional standards of journalism and your production of propaganda in the name of modern Western media.
Much of Western media these days carry long articles all based on unverified claims by Israeli military sources; this is not different from how they covered Ukraine, all based on Ukrainian and Western military sources. They often insert a disclaimer that the information contained has not been verified.
But don’t those Western countries teach in their journalism schools that unverified information can’t be published? Arab military or political unverified claims are never published unless they are run by the Israeli and NATO militaries for verification or refutation.
What the World Is Seeing
The one thing that will come out of this is that people of color around the world can see for themselves the extent to which race and ethnicity play a big part in shaping the foreign policies of Western countries. The different price tags placed on human lives has never been more strikingly clear.
Arabs and Muslims have seen that not only don’t their lives matter to Westerners but that their status in Western countries is lower and will only get lower with the rise of far-right parties and with the adoption of a far-right immigration agenda by mainstream center and left parties in Europe.
The West has not had the opportunity to assess the effects of the Gaza slaughter on its relationship with the East or with Africa and Asia and South America.
The West is acting as a monolithic bloc of white Christian nations bent on imposing their will on the southern half of the globe. And when China comes to nations of the South for help without extracting demeaning political concessions, the West has the temerity to warn those countries of ulterior motives.
The Arab and Muslim worlds are increasingly radicalized, and the West by its reaction to Israeli assaults on Gaza, has made Hamas more popular than ever. Even those who used to criticize Hamas find it now difficult to do so. Jordanian journalist, Bassam Baddarin, observed that Abu `Ubayda (the spokesman of the military wing of Hamas) could be elected in any Arab country.
That is your doing.
As`ad AbuKhalil is a Lebanese-American professor of political science at California State University, Stanislaus. He is the author of the Historical Dictionary of Lebanon (1998), Bin Laden, Islam and America’s New War on Terrorism (2002), The Battle for Saudi Arabia (2004) and ran the popular The Angry Arab blog. He tweets as @asadabukhalil Via Consortium News
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Views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Information Clearing House.