Inviting David Brooks to My Class

The Zionists are prisoners of a bad dream: they must first free themselves, break free from the prison in which they can only play the part of tormentors, if they and especially their Palestinian victims are to live normal lives.

M. Shahid Alam

On January 12, the New York Times carried an article by David Brooks on Jews and Israel. It so caught my eye, I decided to bring its conservative author to my class on the economic history of the Middle East. I sent my students the link to this article, asked them to read it carefully, and come to the next class prepared to discuss and dissect its contents.

My students recalled various parts of the NYT article but no one could explain its substance. They recalled David Brooks’ focus on the singular intellectual achievements of American Jews, the enviable record of Israeli Jews as innovators and entrepreneurs, the mobility of Israel’s innovators, etc. One student even spoke of what was not in the article or in the history of Jews – centuries of Jewish struggle to create a Jewish state in Palestine.

But they offered no comments about Brooks’ motivation. Why had he decided to brag about Jewish achievements, a temptation normally eschewed by urbane Jews. In my previous class, while discussing Edward Said’s critique of Orientalism, I had discussed how knowledge is suborned by power, how it is perverted by tribalism, and how Western writers had crafted their writings about the Middle East to serve the interests of colonial powers. Not surprisingly, this critique had not yet sunk in.

I coaxed my students, asking them directly to explore if David Brooks had an axe (or more than one) to grind. Was there an elephant in the room they had missed? What was the subtext of the op-ed?

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Death By Sanctions

M. Shahid Alam

Iraq deaths double under UN sanctions.”
New York Times, Feb.17, 2000

Sleep my child, do not wake now.
The portents in the sky foretell
a searing death for you.

The couriers of death have come,
stealth in their cyber gaze:
they scour the land for Saddam.

They poison every river, creek and well.
They darken school and hospital.
They warp the words you spell.

For star, for oil and cross they fly.
They will not cease to tyrannize
your dying days and hellish nights.

They will not cease their deathly watch.
Their mission is to fossilize
your bones, your heart, your eyes.

Sweet my child, do not wake now.
Your eyes once soft are hard
as rock: your hair is white as snow.

– M. Shahid Alam is professor of economics at Northeastern University. He is author of Challenging the New Orientalism (IPI: 2000). You can reach him at

The war against Gaza continues; the siege is still in place

Journalists and politicians tend to refer mistakenly to the ongoing siege of Gaza as a “blockade”. The word “blockade” is a rather neutral and tepid term that doesn’t indicate that such policies can be part of warfare. On the other hand, the word “siege” clearly indicates that it is part of warfare or ethnic cleansing. The courageous Israeli journalist Amira Hass recently returned from a long stay in Gaza, and she makes it abundantly clear that the Israeli policies regarding what is allowed to enter Gaza amount to a siege. Toilet paper, shampoo, building materials, window panes… these are basic necessities of life and living, yet they are barred from entering Gaza. Most houses in Gaza today don’t have window panes; they were destroyed during the Gazan Massacre in January 2009 and they haven’t been fixed. The nature of banned products also renders the usual description of the tunnels between Gaza and Egypt as used for “smuggling” as simply absurd. The tunnels are merely “siege busting” means to enable the population to survive. Furthermore, Sam Bahour, the Palestinian businessman and writer living in Ramallah comments on Amira Hass’ article:

As a prelude to this article, I should note that dear friends in Gaza are telling me that Israeli warships along the coast of Gaza are closer than ever and can be clearly seen by the naked eye, which is not usually the case. They shell warning shots all day, really creating a renewed sense of fear that round two (or is that 1,002) of the onslaught against Gaza is about to begin any day.
No headlines does not mean no war crimes.

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Holocaust in Palestine

H/t to Mohammed Omer for posting this on Facebook.

The following YouTube from France is a powerful depiction contrasting life in Palestine and for Jews during the European Holocaust. When will ordinary Americans and American politicians understand these similarities? Who knows. But we will do whatever it takes to change American views toward Palestine and the Mideast… one step at a time.  

Resisting Genocide

The International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network released the following statement for Holocaust Remembrance Day:

How does the city sit solitary, that was full of people! How is she become as a widow!…
She weeps sore into the night, and her tears are on her cheeks:
among all who loved her she has none to comfort her.

(Book of Lamentations)

Last week, after murdering 1400 people – of whom 400 were children – after bombing hospitals and mosques, schools, universities and humanitarian supplies, and tens of thousand of homes, Israel declared a cease-fire. A shameful parade of European leaders immediately went to Jerusalem to embrace the mass murderers and to pledge their support for the continuing siege of Gaza.

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