Decline and Fall
There has been rising criticism in recent years of the Eurocentrism of most “Western Culture” courses taught at US colleges. At Stanford University, for instance, student and faculty protests have asked that these required courses be broadened to include some attention to the cultures and histories of non-Western peoples. Alas, the critics have completely failed to grasp the inevitable consequences of tampering with the canon. Fortunately, the Wall Street Journal recruited the far-sighted scholar Bernard Lewis to sound the alarm. In a May 2, 1988 piece entitled “Western Culture Must Go” — the reference is to a chant supposedly used by supporters of curricular reform — Lewis warns that “it is not always clear whether what must go is Western culture itself, or merely its teaching in the universities…” In any case, “the two may in the long run come to the same thing.” With the same impeccable logic found in much of his writing on post-18th century topics, Lewis demonstrates that the “removal” of Western culture must inexorably lead to the restoration of slavery, the return of the harem, polygamy and concubinage, unending tyranny and the suppression of intellectual curiosity. After all “the West” abolished slavery and the harem, gave birth to the tradition of political freedom, and “developed an interest in other cultures, and made an effort to study them, to understand them and enrich its own intellectual and cultural life in the process.” Now, of course, this “enrichment” has gone quite far enough. Stanford faculty beware! Today’s miseducated undergrads are likely to be tomorrow’s tyrants, obsessed by the search for fresh concubines on the slave blocks of Palo Alto.

Two-Way Street
Those who doubt the benefits of the US-Israeli “special relationship” should know that it works both ways. Addressing AIPAC’s 1988 annual conference, Defense Secretary Frank Carlucci announced that Israel’s weapons sales to the United States rose from $9 million in 1983 to $250 million in 1987 and “will continue to grow.” Israel, Carlucci stated, “would remain an important source of [weapons] systems that are proven and ready in some cases, saving the United States the time and expense of developing its own.” Carlucci also noted that US funds had underwritten “every major weapon system” built by Israel, including fighter planes, surveillance aircraft and tanks.

The Devil Made Them Do It
Defrocked televangelist Jimmy Swaggart, having forgiven himself for his own sins in record time, squeezed in a quick visit to
Jewish settlers in Tekoa, on the West Bank, this past summer. Swaggart no doubt raised their morale by assuring his hosts that the Palestinian uprising was the work of the devil.

The Devil (cont.)
Some people make even Swaggart look good in the pernicious stupidity department. Writing in the Cairo newspaper Al-Sha‘b on July 26, 1988, Mahmud Bakri “reports” that the Israeli secret service has assigned 327
young Jewish women infected with AIDS to spread the disease in Egypt and the Arab world through intercourse with young men. Israel’s alleged goal is to deplete Arab human resources, spread terror among the people and force Arab governments to divert attention from confronting Israel to coping with the disease. Al-Sha‘b is published by the opposition Socialist Labor Party, successor to the quasifascist Young Egypt movement of the 1930s and 1940s and now allied with the semilegal Muslim Brothers.

Democracy in Action
A poll conducted in late June found that 49 percent of Israeli Jewish adults believe that “causing the Palestinians to leave” the occupied territories would best allow Israel to maintain both its Jewish and its democratic character. Only 28-32 percent felt that relinquishing the territories might better meet this goal. Two-thirds of Likud voters and half of Labor’s voters chose the “transfer” option. The poll demonstrated the extent to which the idea of expulsion, once promoted only by Meir Kahane, has become legitimate among Israeli Jews.

But the news from Israel is not all bad. The Labor party recently dropped plans to produce a propaganda film for the upcoming elections modeled on Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds, in which the growth of the Palestinian population in the occupied territories, and the resulting “demographic threat” to Israel’s Jewish majority, would be depicted by swarms of black birds.

Peace at Last?
The Gulf cease-fire in August raises the prospect that Iran and Iraq will soon exchange prisoners of war. Iran says many of the Iraqi prisoners it holds do not want to go home and have requested political asylum. This may have something to do with the rich cultural life the prisoners enjoy, including painting, handicrafts, theater and sports. Tehran radio also says the prisoners have held 800 Quran recitation competitions, an average of two a week since the war began in 1980.

The Iraqi regime marked the cease-fire by putting out an extraordinary piece of official bombast, the opening paragraph
of which runs as follows: “O great Iraqi people. O sons of our glorious Arab nation. O heroic men in our valiant Armed
Forces: Today is your day. Today is the day of all days. At the same time, this is the communique of all communiques.”

Another official statement proclaimed a three-day holiday and praised “the leadership of the son of Iraq and its leader, great Saddam Hussein…its son, knight, and enlightened leader, victor and hero Saddam Hussein.” The Iraqi people celebrated by partying in the streets, while soldiers shot volleys of bullets into the air, killing or wounding many before the government ordered the shooting stopped. The bullets also caused the postponement of flights landing at — you guessed it — Saddam International Airport.

How to cite this article:

Al Miskin "Mediations," Middle East Report 155 (November/December 1988).

For 50 years, MERIP has published critical analysis of Middle Eastern politics, history, and social justice not available in other publications. Our articles have debunked pernicious myths, exposed the human costs of war and conflict, and highlighted the suppression of basic human rights. After many years behind a paywall, our content is now open-access and free to anyone, anywhere in the world. Your donation ensures that MERIP can continue to remain an invaluable resource for everyone.


Pin It on Pinterest

Share This