Monday, January 7, 2008

More on Sari Nusseibeh (and James Russell)

After the email (reproduced almost word for word in this post - the last sentence was absent in the email) I felt compelled to send to James Russell, condemning his condemnation of Sari Nusseibeh, he responded to me:
Mr. Nusseibeh's words speak for themselves; and I stand by my resolution to oppose him and his institutional Jew-hatred. I regret your disagreement with my views, which you have every right to hold and to express. But might I observe that your epithet "McCarthyist" is childish: I know what McCarthyism is, since relatives of mine were blacklisted when I was a boy. I am not doing that, but stating merely what I will do myself and what I think personally. Others are free to collaborate with Al Quds as they please.

Yours faithfully,

JR Russell
Of course, as for what Nusseibeh's words were, I don't think they say what Professor Russell does. I think he's misreading them, and I'd be happy to debate on those grounds. When Nusseibeh responded he explained what he had said -I think it's best that the debate remain centered on what was actually said- that was taken out of context:
I explained that, as part of a package deal, return on my view should be confined to the Palestinian State (in addition to compensation, etc.). I added however that the other side of the coin of my position (confining the return of palestinians to within the borders of a future Palestinian State) was that Jews also will have no right to claim to "return" to within the borders of a Palestinian State, and will be confined in the exercise of this "right" to the State of Israel (meaning their claim as Jews to return and settle anywhere in "Judea, Samaria, etc." will not be substantiated). I certainly did not mean by this statement to exclude Jews from being able to live in an Arab State, or vice versa. At this point the issue of whether Palestinians can accept confining their return to within Palestine came up, and I said this had to be accepted if Palestinians truly wished to have a two-state solution. But in any case, I said, Palestinian leaders should express themselves honestly on this matter: demanding a two-state solution entails, from a practical point of view, confining the exercise of the right of return. Insisting on the pursuit of a full implementation of the right of return implies a pursuit of a one-state solution. I am personally indifferent to what we (Palestinians) should put up as a vision [ig: though, in fact, Nusseibeh has consistently argued for a two-state solution, and been branded a traitor by many Palestinians for it]. Indeed, I said, I was the first to call for such a solution. However, I added, PLO strategy has been going in the other direction, and it is a direction whose implications we should own up to.

Nusseibeh's position as a philosopher is that practical concerns sometimes bring rights into conflict, so that achieving certain rights requires abandoning others. It's in that vein that he advises Palestinians to abandon the right of return, and it is not objectionable that he advises Jews to accept the same framework of prioritizing their (our) right to national self-determination over our "right" (for those, unlike me, who think we have one) to the whole of the land between the river and the sea.

As for whether it's fair to call Russell's declaration McCarthyist, I think it is, in that it casts aspersions on anyone remotely connected to Nusseibeh. He originally wrote that:
In response I declare that I refuse to teach or collaborate in any way professionally with any person having any connection whatsoever to Al Quds University, which must be regarded as an anti-Semitic and racialist entity. Furthermore I will oppose by every possible means, including prosecution under the laws of the United States, any association or cooperation of Harvard University with Al Quds. I urge all scholars and teachers of good will to join me.
That is not nearly the same as what he wrote in his response to me, that:
Others are free to collaborate with Al Quds as they please.

(The fun thing is that we can make this whole debate clear by actually referring to what people said. We can debate the meanings and implications of what people said. Of course, that's radically unlike the insinuations of those antisemites who arrogantly shout "Don't you dare call me an antisemite!" -Because, of course, Jews make a hobby of calling people antisemites without reason.- Those people aren't concerned with the actual matter of what was said. In the case of my having been banned from Newsvine -read the link if you're even tempted to blame me for that- those who spoke out against me never made any reference to anything I had said or objected to. Their arguments were equally valid -which is to say invalid- whether the original statement I had voiced objection to was not antisemitic, midly antisemitic, or openly genocidal.)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Sarri made an anti-semitic statement. You are defending and rationalizing his racism.

Russell was correct. You are wrong.