When Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez gave Obama a copy of Eduardo Galeano’s Open Veins of Latin America it became an instant success on Amazon. At least Galeano’s book well deserves to be promoted and to be read by Obama.
Benjamin Netanyahu, or “Bibi” (aka, his kindergarten name), just visited president Obama in the White House where he handed him a copy of a book by Mark Twain. Tom Segev observes:
“Mark Twain despised the Arabs and Islam in general. He thought they were ‘filthy, brutish, ignorant, unprogressive [and] superstitious.’ That is a good reason for Israel’s prime minister to give Twain’s book as a gift to the president of the United States.”
Now, isn’t that a nice edifying reason for Bibi to push Twain’s book on Obambi?
Observation: Twain’s The Innocents Abroad (an account of his ‘pilgrimage’ to the holy land where he sees few arabs) has long been a staple of Zionist propaganda who have used it to claim that Palestine was a ‘land without a people’. It is featured in the propaganda handbook The Myths and Facts from which it was picked up by Joan Peters for her famous hoax From Time Immemorial, and from there it was borrowed by Alan Dershowitz.
3 thoughts on “Bibi meets Obambi”
while i am not a fan of twain’s orientalist rhetoric, there is quite a bit in the travelogue that obama would do well to read, actually. for instance, twain also compares american indians to palestinians. and much of the barren land mythology that zionists like to pull from twain’s text is disingenuous because he makes similar claims about other places he visits on his trip, including greece. for people who want to read it, there is a free copy that you can download on the gutenberg project’s website.
In presenting the President with this particular work of Twain,Netanyahu,the former furniture salesman,is likely to be sharing some dark private joke with Obama.At any rate he’s probably misread the book if indeed he’s read it at all.
Twain’s Innocents Abroad antedates his better known works like Huckleberry Finn by nearly twenty years.Innocents published in 1867 is replete with notorious Orientalist aspersions re-Islam,Palestine,Greeks,Lebanese,Syrians and Turks and their supposed predilection for despotism.Hucksters,prophets and pirates abound in a double-voiced travelogue that debunks previous efforts in the genre.
Certainly Twain’s depiction of Jews he encountered in Tangier is more respectful than his references to Moors and Bedouin.His care not offend Jewish readers stands in contrast to the marked Orientalist slant against Arabs.
Yet the Twain who wrote Huckleberry some seventeen years later is a writer far less ready to cater to the prejudices of his readers and subscribe to the assumptions of racial hierarchy that feature in the earlier travel writing.
In a parallel writing trajectory with Melville,who had begun his own career by integrating his experiences as a seaman and resident in Polynesia into various works of travel fiction,Twain’s later writing when attentively read barely manages to conceal not only the writer’s sense of his common humanity with black Americans but his sense of the outright absurdity of contemporary white views on the race question.
It was the race question that came to dominate the work of both these writers.Both became deeply ill at ease with the notions of idealized whiteness and racial hierarchy that clouded the perceptions of so many of their contemporaries.
By 1898 with the US conquest of Hawaii and the Philippines when the US began to assume the white man’s burden Twain was firmly in the anti-imperialist camp.
Netanyahu,an employee of the CFR since he was 24 years old when he was adopted by Schultz and Bush snr.,should have stuck to selling Ottomans.
Maybe Segev mistook the furniture catalogue Netanyahu gave Obama for Twain’s Innocents Abroad.
In his Sandwich Island Letters from Hawaii,Twain sardonically exhorted his countrymen to assume the White Man’s Burden:
“We must annex those people.We can afflict them with our wise and beneficent government.We can introduce the novelty of thieves,all the way up from streetcar pickpockets to municipal robbers and government defaulters and show them how amusing it is to arrest them and try them and then turn them loose-some for cash and some for political influence.
We can make them ashamed of their primitive and simple justice.We can make that little bunch of sleepy islands the hottest corner on earth,and array in it the moral splendour of our high and holy civilisation.Annexation is what the poor islanders need.Shall we to men benighted,the lamp of life deny?”
Now this is not the Innocents Abroad Twain.
Still,it is a man like Conrad who had the capacity to see through all the imperialist “civilising mission” claptrap to the Heart of Darkness within.