DEARBORN — While the Palestinian aspect of the recent popular uprisings in the Arab world has been largely ignored by the American media, internationally-recognized Lebanese American intellectual, author, and activist Dr. As'ad Abu-Khalil has kept a close eye on the situation, which is of the utmost importance for world security.
Dr. Abu-Khalil (R) answered questions from the crowd and offered his perspective on recent events in the Middle East at the Bint Jebail Cultural Center on Monday.
"The Palestinian struggle (on the inside) is now more difficult for many reasons," Abu-Khalil said. "What they have is a police non-state to prevent them from revolting or even standing up for their fellow brothers and sisters."
Despite the continued, internationally illegal occupation and siege of the West Bank and Gaza Strip by Israel and the repressive atmosphere preventing uprisings in Palestine, Abu-Khalil, who was brought to Dearborn by the United States Palestinian Community Network and Michigan's Palestine Cultural Office, said that the Arab uprising in other areas has caused plenty of feelings of consternation among Israeli and U.S. leaders.
"They are in a panic because their tyrants are falling and not getting up, they could not save their beloved tyrants...the Israelis have shed more tears over the fall of Mubarak than possibly his own family," he said. "This is without a doubt a new Middle East...make no mistake about it, there is a connection between what's happening and the struggle against Israel which are one in the same."
Abu-Khalil illustrated his point by reminding the crowd of more than 100 people of attacks carried out against scores of Arab countries by Israel.
"What Israel has done against the Palestinian people and Arab countries in general, in my lifetime...they've bombed Tunisia, Egypt, Sudan, Jordan, Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq, and in 1973, they downed a Libyan civilian airliner, and they killed a Moroccan waiter in 1974 in front of his pregnant wife in Norway because he looked to ignorant Mossad killers like a Palestinian leader; the Norweigan government then smuggled the killers back into Israel," he said.
Chaker Aoun of the Tri-County Business Committee takes part in the Q&A session. PHOTOS: Nafeh AbuNab
"Say what you want about the 70's and 80's and their bad policies but at least the experts had actual knowledge of the region and knew how to speak Arabic," he said.
"Look at Jeffrey Feltman (the current Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs), in all his years I think he's learned how to say shukran (thank you) and Ramadan Kareem (Ramadan is generous)...just like how former Assistant Secretary of State for Latin America Elliot Abrams didn't know any Spanish."
Abu-Khalil also mentioned that Barack Obama appointee and former Senior Director of Middle East and North Africa at the National Security Council Danny Shapiro, who was just named as the U.S.' ambassador to Israel this past week from the former position, doesn't speak Arabic and has long been a lobbyist for Zionist organizations.
"Now it seems the only requirement is fanaticism to the state of Israel and expertise in the Middle East is a disqualifier...I've talked to people in the state department who say the same thing, those who know the region are looked upon with great suspicion...so now, ideology becomes the criterion for high office and not expertise."
Abu-Khalil said Shapiro met with many pro-Israel groups during the Egyptian uprising as opposed to the numerous groups of Egyptian Americans that wished to voice their concerns.
He also added that he believes that the U.S. in its continued actions diplomatically along with support of dictators in the region is evidenced that it operates on "assumptions of classical orientalist cliches that Arabs are incapable of revolting against injustices," an attitude reflected by the mainstream media.
"Someone in the New York Times said that we don't have a future tense," he said, "they should take a lesson in Arabic because that's the level of consistent arrogance that we say characterizing Middle East political and academic studies."
The same popular publication also published a story about 82-year-old Gene Sharp from Boston and his pamphlet "From Dictatorship to Democracy," which they said helped inspire the revolution in Egypt.
Abu-Khalil believes it's another case of trying to marginalize and downplay the role Arabs themselves played in the uprising.
"The New York Times was under the impression that an 82-year-old white American in Boston who wrote a pamphlet on non-violence inspired revolts in the Arab World...most Arabs have never heard of this person...I hadn't heard of him until 2005 when a foundation approached me about supervising a translation, I found it too boring for my taste and passed it to a friend in Lebanon.
"That was the last time I've heard of him until these events and now he's a front page story."
Abu-Khalil also handled questions in both Arabic and English from the audience, touching on topics like the potential of an uprising in Saudi Arabia.
He said that while the Saudis' leadership is obviously not on board with the Arab uprisings and is a major cause of sectarian rifts in the Arab World, many fellow Arabs underestimate the will of the people in the country to potentially stand up as well as their own frustrations with the situation in the Middle East. Despite that, however, he said that the U.S. would do whatever is necessary to prevent a similar uprising in the country including military intervention.
Following the talk, which was also sponsored by the Congress of Arab American Organizations and the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee's newly-revived Greater Detroit Chapter, Abu-Khalil posed for pictures before heading out.
He remains hopeful that the current wave of uprisings will finally bring peace, dignity, and justice to the embattled region and he seemed to enjoy his visit despite the recent passing of his brother, Midhat, in Lebanon, and the unpleasant Michigan weather.
"These are exciting times to speak about the political developments in the Arab World...the credit goes squarely on the shoulders of the men and women of the region," he said.
For info on the U.S. Palestinian Community Network, visit http://palestineconference.org/wp/. For the Palestine Office, visit www.palestineculturaloffice.org