To the Editors: In pain and sorrow, we learn at this late date that our friend Mahmoud al-Mughrabi was killed by the Israeli Air Force during its October 1 bombing raid on Tunisia. Mahmud was born in Jerusalem in 1960. By the age of 16 he had already been under detention 12 times, and he was one of the first who dared to speak in public about the methods of interrogation of Palestinian detainees used by the General Security Services in Israel. He then gave his consent to being publicly identified as an informant for the memorable expose of torture in Israel which appeared in the Sunday Times of June 19, 1977. In 1984 he managed to escape to Jordan after years of increasingly marginal existence under steadily deteriorating conditions of military occupation.
Evelyne Amar, Witold Jedlicki, Israel Shahak, Aurora Yaacov, Sue Narodowski, Leah Tsemel, Michael Warshavsky, Sophie Amar, Ronnie Heymann
To the Editors: I’ve been following the controversy that’s been simmering for some months on your letters page. It’s disturbing because I know I’m only seeing the tip of an iceberg. Over the years I’ve been involved in plenty of political and theoretical disputes and I’ve learned through some bitter experience to recognize the outward signs that foretell trouble. Much of the criticism of MERIP has been antagonistic and abusive, which is unfortunate. But I hope you will not let the tone of the criticism blind you to its content.
I’m afraid there’s a lot of truth in what your critics say. MERIP is soft on Zionism. Without an understanding of the operation of Zionism in the US political system, it’s impossible to account for the Middle Eastern policy of the US government. If the domestic influence of Zionism is left out or covered up, much of US foreign policy appears as simple madness, something which it is not. The Middle East is a very complex puzzle. And Zionism is a very crucial piece of the puzzle. The puzzle can’t be solved without that piece.
Those of us who support MERIP do so because we need it and rely on it. We’re used to a MERIP that’s not afraid of anything — that tells the truth no matter how powerful the institutions are that may be offended. If MERIP develops analytical blind spots that undermine its work, then it will fail its supporters. And itself.
I fully recognize the importance of MERIP’s work. I’d hate to be without it. I’m willing to dig a little deeper to support it, so I’ll increase my annual donation from $50 to $100. My check is enclosed. Keep up the good work.
Thomas J. McCammon
To the Editors: Here is my MERIP sustenance check. I send it despite (not because of) the fact that MERIP takes an often irritatingly biased pro-Palestine stance. (For example, I am still waiting for even the smallest MERIP comment on the vast monetary resources the PLO and Mr. Arafat command, and how they are used, or on PLO money’s role in Jordan’s (and other Middle East countries’) economies (see Der Spiegel, October 28, 1985). And I send it also despite MERIP’s uncritically jubilant attitude toward “revolutions,” e.g., the Iranian Revolution early on, which prompted truly ludicrous remarks like melons being available again after the Shah was gone (a caption to a photograph of a melon vendor’s stall). Critical evaluation of status quo — I am all for it; dialectics — I am all for it; ideological polemics — brrr.
The Editors Respond: We appreciate hearing our readers’ critical comments and we value their capacity to spot occasional foolishness in our editorial judgments. Concerning MERIP’s record on the subject of Zionism, it seems that the criticism concerns less what we have published than what we have not. Our analysis assumes that US policy is not “sheer madness.” But neither do we see Zionist influence as the central force animating and directing that policy. We will continue to discuss US policy in the Middle East, including the place of Zionism in policy formulation. Specifically, we are planning an upcoming issue which we hope will contribute to a better understanding of Zionist influence in US politics. We don't expect it will be the last word on the topic.
We have published critical discussions of PLO policies, including its funding practices in the Occupied Territories. (See, for example, MERIP Reports 119, 131 and 136/137.) As for its “vast monetary resources,” we wonder what lends Der Spiegel such authority on the subject? The article of October 28, 1985 is an undocumented and unreliable account which borders on the — dare we say it — ludicrous.
To the Editors: In MERIP Reports 136/137 you interviewed Norman Finkelstein with regard to Joan Peters’ From Time Immemorial. I think Finkelstein is not aware that I reviewed the book in the American Historical Review 90/2 (April 1985). The correspondence resulting from my review — with Bernard Lewis and Elie Kedourie — was published in the AHR 90/5 (December 1985). Edward Said…does cite my review and my dismissal of Peters’ book. In short, some individuals in Middle East studies did raise questions about Peters’ book and realized that something was wrong with it.