Remarkable piece by an Arab American who manages to transcend the “my people right or wrong” mentality of honor-shame, tribal culture.
‘I am with Israel': One Arab-American’s salute
Despite all the spit, kicks & insults, the Jews would rather build than destroy
EMILIO KARIM DABUL
Wednesday, September 19th 2007, 4:00 AM
One of the greatest Arab poets of the 20th century was a Syrian named Nizar Qabbani. He was, in his own way, the Pablo Neruda of the Middle East. His love poems in particular are on a par with anything Don Pablo wrote.
So, it was with great disappointment that I came across one of Qabbani’s poems written in the late 1990s, entitled, “I Am With Terrorism.” I hoped the title would prove ironic. It didn’t. Not even close.
Just how I felt reading Scott Adam’s piece on Ahmadenijad at Columbia.
In fact, it is one of themost naked, awful pieces of anti-Israel, anti-U.S. drivel I’ve ever read.
Witness this rhetorical device in which he is able to insult two peoples with one poetic stone:
“I am with terrorism as long as this new world order is shared between America and Israel half-half.”
And that is actually one of the more moderate sections of the poem. As an Arab-American, I came away from reading it with a real sense of despair. If one of the great voices of Middle East poetry can do nothing more than recycle the Arabs-as-victims stance, justified in horrendous acts of violence against their “oppressors,” then what hope is there ever that Arabs and Israelis will ever know true peace?
I’d actually take that in a different direction. Forget about the Israelis. What hope is there ever that Arabs will ever know a semblance of peace among themselves?
Having just passed the sixth anniversary of 9/11 – and in the midst of a new conversation about the so-called “Israel Lobby” that allegedly dominates U.S. foreign policy – I want to offer an antidote to that toxic verse and the other vitriol that has poisoned too much Arab thought.
Israel, with all its imperfections, remains the beacon of light for the Middle East. For that reason, I wish to salute her, not only as one of America’s greatest allies in the war on terror, but as one of the true miracle countries of this time or any other.
With no apologies to Qabbani, I give you my twist on his verse:
“I am with Israel
because a people so long denied bread and freedom,
crushed under the wheels of pharaohs, emperors, czars and Führers,
has done more than any other people to free the world from itself.
What single people in history have contributed more to faith, science, philosophy and the arts?
And done so against the greatest odds, with a sword at their throats…
I am with Israel
because my people, so long in the desert,
have not had the courage to acknowledge the great teachers among them,
but instead have turned on them,
blamed them for all evil and shed their blood…
What other people could crawl away from the wreckage of the Holocaust
and, instead of seeking revenge, build the miracle called Israel?
Why, as Wufa Sultan has asked, have there been no Jewish homicide bombers?
Perhaps it is because despite all the spit, kicks and insults they’ve faced,
along with the constant threat of extinction,
the Jews would rather build than destroy.
I am with Israel
because I am with life,
and because beyond its verdant desert,
Israel offers the knowledge that those most desirous of peace and freedom
are a people who have so long been denied it,
and who with all they know of the world,
look still toward Jerusalem and reach for their enemy’s hand.”
Dabul, an editor with the American Congress for Truth, is author of “Deadline,” a novel about terrorism.
If Westerners want to see an example of genuine magnanimity and great heartedness, it’s hard to find anything to compare with this. From your mouth to your fellow Arab-Americans’ ears.