Lesson from Egypt: How to Reject A Literary Prize

February 28, 2011 § 8 Comments

by Ali Gharib

British writer Ian McEwan took a lot of heat for accepting the Jerusalem Book Prize. The literary award is given out every two years at the Jerusalem International Book Fair, an event that appears to be put on by the Jerusalem municipal government.

In response to British writers who criticized his decision to accept the prize, McEwan wrote (with my emphasis):

I’m for finding out for myself, and for dialogue, engagement, and looking for ways in which literature, especially fiction, with its impulse to enter other minds, can reach across political divides.

But there are ways to do both: reject the prize and dialogue and engage, though it may not be to the liking of those who have awarded you the honor.

The lesson comes from Egypt, naturally. I discovered this by finally getting to the back of the book of the February issue of Harper’s. It’s from a retrospective review of two Egyptian writers, Albert Cossery and and Sonallah Ibrahim.

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Pakistani ambassador Husain Huqqani hosts an Israel lobby fundraiser

December 11, 2010 § 7 Comments

Pakistani ambassador Husain Haqqani at the neoconservative Foundation for Defence of Democracies

An investigation by Ali Gharib on Foreign Policy magazine’s Middle East Channel reveals that Pakistani ambassador Husain Haqqani recently hosted a fundraiser for the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, an Israel lobby think tank campaigning for an attack on Iran.

Haqqani has a long association with the Israel lobby. He has worked for the neoconservative Hudson Institute and the notorious Islamophobe Daniel Pipes. Indeed, Pipes chose Haqqani to head his ‘religion-building’ project, a ‘pro-American’ Islamic think tank that would ‘go head-to-head with the established Islamist institutions’. In February 2004, he toured the United States with neoconservative propagandist Stephen Schwartz attacking mainstream Muslims organizations, and advising local Jewish communities on how best to enhance their lobbying power in Washington. In Cleveland, they told their Jewish audience that “[e]xtremists dominate all of the major Muslim advocacy groups”. According to the Cleveland Jewish News, Haqqani said:

There are 1.2 billion Muslims in the world and only 18% of them are Arabs, Haqqani points out. In the U.S., only 200,000 of the 4 million Muslims are Arabs. Furthermore, only one-third of the Arabs in the U.S. are Muslim. A little more than half of one percent of American Muslims are Palestinian.

Yet Muslim leadership in America focuses on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as its core issue.

Haqqani and Schwartz then went on to say:

The Jewish lobby has to organize, write letters, and continue to contribute to politicians to counter the Saudi lobby, which has extraordinary influence in Washington

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US Congressman: Prosecute US Citizens involved with Gaza Flotilla

June 4, 2010 § 6 Comments

by Ali Gharib

Israel Lobby stalwart, Rep. Brad Sherman (D. Cal)

On a press call hosted by a pro-Israel organization, Rep. Brad Sherman, Democrat of California, told reporters that he intends to seek the prosecution of any U.S. citizens who were aboard or involved with the Freedom Flotilla.

“The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 [PDF] makes it absolutely illegal for any American to give food, money, school supplies, paper clips, concrete or weapons to Hamas or any of its officials,” Sherman said on the Israel Project call, conflating Hamas and Gaza’s civilian population. “And so I will be asking the Attorney General to prosecute any American involved in what was clearly an effort to give items of value to a terrorist organization.”

Sherman also said that he plans on working with the Department of Homeland Security to make sure that any non-U.S. citizen involved with or aboard the Flotilla are excluded from entering the U.S.

Hamas, considered a foreign terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department, won Palestinian parliamentary elections in 2006 and has held de facto rule over the Gaza Strip since it took the area by force in 2007 in anticipation of an impending U.S.-backed coup d’etat by the rival Fatah faction.

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