Pro captu lectoris habent sua fata libelli. Truly, the fate of books depends upon the discernment of their readers. My books have already received 87 reviews. None, not the London Times, not Izvestia, not even the Jerusalem Post, thought to — twice! — denounce me for being overly moral. Except MERIP Reports.
Israel Shahak has long proclaimed that the magazine is morally bankrupt, for its refusal to deal with American Jewish racism. As always on matters of fact, he is correct. This writer will testify that I had previously submitted a manuscript to MERIP, after discussion with Jim Paul, on the status of American Jewry and its relationship to the Democratic Party, and that it was rejected. Then it was ultimately accepted on all major points and run by Freedomways, widely read and discussed in the black movement, and then entered into the Congressional Record by Rep. John Conyers. Shahak is correct: The magazine, and particularly Jim Paul, is [sic] morally bankrupt, and this cowardice received its official enshrinement in its ideology, with the two bizarre attacks on me for being overly moral. There can be no mincing words, no hypocrisy, no evasions: It is MERIP Reports that has no morality worthy of the name!
The general public will profit from reading almost any magazine on the Middle East. But those of us who specialize in the region are not in need of the further services of a boring academic review, always far behind events, demonstrating not the slightest insight, of nondescript, reformist and cowardly politics. I will be proud to assist Professor Shahak in his absolutely justified campaign to expose the magazine.
For a democratic secular Palestine in a democratic secular world,
The article in your January 1985 issue, “Sifting the Berkeley Left,” starts out with an interesting question concerning the defeat of a mildly worded referendum on US support for Israeli settlements: “What’s going on here?”
Unfortunately, the article leaves the question unanswered by asserting that “the most important factor affecting the outcome of this campaign was money,” and that “the second key factor…was the lack of professional campaign advice and experience.” Nowhere did the author find it appropriate to mention the influence of Zionism in the US (including within the left). In fact, the word Zionist fails to appear in the article at all.
It is high time we faced the fact that the US left — and Berkeley is a good indication of this — is profoundly influenced by Zionism. Alternative explanations for the defeat of Proposition E (and for the relative inattention to the Middle East by the progressive community) do not work unless one buys the kind of technocratic arguments in the article.
Two other California incidents help to confirm my view: Former Congressman Paul McCloskey was hired by a special student program at Stanford University; the same program had previously hired such radicals as Angela Davis. When McCloskey submitted a syllabus indicating he would be critical of Israel, the students refused to pass his book list on to the book store, and his paycheck was delayed for months. At the University of California-San Diego, I worked with progressive students involved in campus co-ops. When I discovered that an article I had submitted for the co-op newsletter was to be used in conjunction with support for co-ops in Israel, I attempted to withdraw the article, but was initially met with derision and physical attacks. Only when I refused to be intimidated was support for Israel’s co-ops deleted.
In each case, it may be possible to argue that the outcome could have been different if more money or technical expertise were available, but it seems to me that without an understanding of the influence of Zionism on the American left, we will not be able to draw the appropriate lessons for future projects, let alone to understand the past.
Your issue on “The PLO and Jordan” (March-April 1985) reinforced the impression I had of your earlier issue, “The PLO Split” (November-December 1983). Then, the views of the opposition to the Fatah-PLO leadership were conspicuously absent. Instead of giving an in-depth and insightful look into [the PLO rebellion of May 1983], you treated it in the same manner other media did. This was evident in your choice of people to write articles and to interview. You accepted the prevalent notion that the split was caused by superficial, non-Palestinian factors. There was little effort to investigate the depth of structural and indigenous causes within the Palestinian movement, particularly within Fatah. The same “mistake” was repeated in your March-April issue. Again, the views of the people in opposition to Arafat and the convening of the PNC session in Amman were absent. This time the absence of opposition views also included the organizations comprising the National Alliance, the Democratic Alliance (including the PFLP), several members of the executive committee of the PLO, about 150 members of the PNC, and the speaker of the PNC, Khaled al-Fahoum. I hope the absence of opposition views was due to an unfortunate oversight. I would like to suggest that you make an effort to hear and present the views of the opposition, whether in Syria, Lebanon, or the US. I also hope that you will redeem this shortcoming in an upcoming issue.
We thank you for your concern and interest in reporting the true news of the Middle East, especially your issue on “The Contest for Arabia” (February 1985). However, we would like to call your attention to a mistake on page 19, in your interview with a representative of the Socialist Labor Party in the Arabian Peninsula. The name of our organization is not the Organization of Islamic Revolution for the Liberation of the Arabian Peninsula; it is the Organization of Islamic Revolution in the Arabian Peninsula. We also include a copy of our monthly periodical, Makka Calling.