09 December 2013

Yousef Munayyer, Open Zion and Nelson Mandela

Open Zion, the withering branch of The Daily Beast, is at its last throes. Peter Beinart, the Open Zion founder and leader, decided to channel his energy elsewhere and has written a touching account of his decision. For the purpose of this post, the interesting point was his justification of having one Yousef Munayyer, a rabid anti-Zionist and one-stater* to join the list of Open Zion contributors.

Getting Palestinians to write, I was told, would be impossible. By including the word “Zion,” we had pulled up the drawbridge. But instead of saying no, Yousef Munayyer and Maysoon Zayid tested us. They equated Israeli policy with apartheid and insisted the country was built on ethnic cleansing. They argued that the very idea of a Jewish state was racist. For some of our Jewish editors, myself included, it was hard to read and harder to publish. But we knew that if we were taking a risk by publishing them, they were taking a bigger risk by writing for us. And when I saw the hatred they endured for fraternizing with the enemy, I began to see that our two peoples shared a common disease.
And Beinart stood up to the test by Yousef Munayyer, whose use of the term "Israeli apartheid"** is as regular as breathing. But apparently it is all part and parcel of the Open Zion pluralism, as envisioned by its founder.

Yousef Munayyer: now there is a propagandist of the Palestinian cause (case, course?) worth his salt. It is enough to check his concoction titled "Palestine's Hidden History of Nonviolence", with its breathtaking statements, such as "The truth is that there is a long, rich history of nonviolent Palestinian resistance dating back well before 1948, when the state of Israel was established atop a depopulated Palestine". One doesn't know whether to laugh or to cry at the mention of that nonviolent Palestinian resistance preceding the declaration of Independence in 1948. But the sleight of hand displayed when describing the establishment of Israel "atop a depopulated Palestine" is astonishing - in its chutzpa and its crudeness, worth the best efforts of Mr Goebbels.

This is the man whose many talents Peter Beinart recruited and who still, while Beinart is already sharpening his pens and pencils for his future fruitful career in Haaretz, is taking part in the above mentioned last throes of Open Zion. Munayyer's article Mandela and My Son is a typical example of what Beinart would like to present as Open Zion's pluralism. To start with, the lame attempt by Munayyer to declare Mandela's memory to be "hands-off" for some people:
From reactions emanating from Israel, you’d think Mandela was an Israeli hero even though the Israeli government stood by the Apartheid South African government, providing them weapons and tools of repression after many western allies could no longer do so.
While some of the Israeli governments of the time were indeed cooperating with South African government, which is as shameful a piece of history as that of many other governments, companies and individuals cooperating with and even supporting the said regime, how does this affect a) the current government and b) the Israeli public? Should I, to take one example, be prevented from lauding the late leader because thirty years ago Israel had some shady dealings with South Africa?

But this is not the central point of Munayyer's opus. Here comes the central point:
Mandela was being glorified for his role in reconciliation, for his non-violence and shown in pictures with President Bill Clinton, Queen Elizabeth and other Western leaders.

Nelson Mandela was a freedom fighter. Sometimes this fight included violence, precisely because Apartheid was a system of violence directed against the native black population of South Africa. Non-violence for Mandela was not a principle but rather a tactic.
Mandela's biography was indeed checkered, as far as his attitude to and participation in violence was concerned. But the way Yousef Munayyer presents this fact shows the heart of the problem: his total lack of understanding of what brought about the Mandela's towering achievement - putting the end to the apartheid regime, while avoiding an epic bloodbath.

What made Mandela the great man he was hadn't been his romance with violence in the earlier years of his ANC career and not his love affair with South Africa's communist party. It was his ability to rise above the violence and above the treacherous swamps of ideology, to find the ability to draw people of all colors and all walks of life together. And beyond everything else - to prevent the country from falling into the abyss of a bloody civil war.

But Munayyers of our local strife (even if they reside in a comfy environment of Washington D.C.) are not into peaceful solutions. They are more into the "throw the Jews into the sea" kind of approach, and nothing can be farther from their feverish brains than a thought about the way of Mandela.

And these are the people whom Peter Beinart, who proclaims his love of Israel, considers fit to participate in this doubtful and, thankfully, expiring venture he is leaving behind on his way to the new horizons.

(*) For those of you who are still not familiar with the term "one stater": the branch of anti-Zionist thought that offers a bi-national state as a "final solution" to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. In other words, precisely as the modern anti-Semites are using the so called "anti-Zionism" to mask their hate, one staters are hiding their genocidal intentions toward Jews behind the fairy tale of the future egalitarian and democratic bi-national state. Check what one of the main drivers of the one-state solution, Ali Abunimah, has to say about what Jews should expect during the implementation of that solution. How and why should one differentiate between the antisemitism of the Nazi kind and one of the one stater kind, I don't know. Not sure whether I want to, either. As an aside: Munayyer's Wiki entry says: "New York Times columnist Roger Cohen cited Munayyer in March 2013 as an example of a Palestinian supporter of a two-state solution...", but then I tend to suspect lately that jolly Roger is a long-term sufferer of an acute softening of his brain.

(**) "Israeli apartheid" for Munayyer is the "separation wall" which interferes with the deity-given right of some Palestinians to infiltrate Israel and kill some Jews; and the settlements, although how exactly settlements are a facet of apartheid is not made clear to the reader.