Rania Khalek describes herself as “an independent journalist,” and while she apparently prefers not to disclose her professional qualifications, she at least announces her firm conviction that “the establishment media, with a few very minor exceptions, totally sucks” and that “Objectivity is bullshit.” With this approach, she focuses on “covering the plight of the underclass and marginalized,” and it seems that Khalek’s personal plight is that she lives “just outside the rotting establishment cesspool that is Washington, DC.”
If Khalek doesn’t think much of the US, she obviously thinks even less of Israel, and, unsurprisingly, she is a devoted promoter of any and all anti-Israel campaigns. Her world view was presumably only confirmed when she recently found herself held up as an example of the bigotry and antisemitism that is so pervasive in the BDS movement, and she promptly took to Twitter to complain: “Anti-BDS Stanford professor says I''m anti-Semitic 4 demanding more Arab voices at @thenation.” The link Khalek helpfully provided leads to an excellent article by Russell A. Berman in the Los Angeles Review of Books, which recently hosted a forum debating the BDS movement against Israel. Berman’s piece is one of several contributions opposing BDS, and towards the end of his extremely knowledgeable and well-argued critique, he points out that there is reason for concern that the antisemitism that “is part of the international context in which the debate about Israel rages on” is also affecting the debate in the US. As an example Berman cites an article by Khalek published in the The Electronic Intifada in late 2013, where she “criticized an allegedly pro-Israeli perspective at The Nation through the tried and true anti-Semitic tactic of counting the Jews among the staff writers and, not surprisingly, determining that there were too many to her taste.” According to Berman, the reaction to Khalek’s piece “from the progressive camp was closer to silence than outrage, indicating a willingness to give anti-Semitism a pass, as long as it has the correct political credentials.” Khalek’s Electronic Intifada piece is entitled “Does The Nation have a problem with Palestinians?” She argues there – if this is what it can be called – that the Nation’s coverage of the BDS movement was dominated by the voices of Jewish writers. Dismissing the fact that “the majority of pieces in the latest debate were in favor of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS),” Khalek goes on to complain that “when it comes to Israel and Palestine, The Nation habitually reinforces Israeli apartheid by privileging Jewish voices over Palestinian ones.” According to Khalek, it is also ridiculous to believe that “four Jews and one Palestinian” could provide a “diversity of views,” as the Nation’s editor and publisher had claimed. For people concerned about the relentless demonization of Israel, this breathtaking display of blatant bigotry and sheer stupidity is almost reassuring in the sense that it confirms what Walter Russell Mead once wrote about antisemitism:
“Anti-Semitism isn’t just the socialism of fools; it is the sociology of the befuddled. The anti-Semite fails to grasp how the world works, and that failure condemns him to endless frustration.”
I sure hope there is “endless frustration” in store for anti-Israel activists like Rania Khalek.
But of course, Rania Khalek outed herself not only as an antisemite, but also as a racist in general: for her, it doesn’t matter what opinions writers express – there are Jewish writers and there are Arab (and Muslim) writers, and apparently, a writer’s ethnic background or religious affiliation tells Rania Khalek something about the views this writer holds. And even if a Jewish writer is hostile to Israel and wholeheartedly supports the BDS campaign against the Jewish state, Rania Khalek would prefer to have an Arab or Muslim writer.
Maybe she should get what she wants – and a real lesson in diversity: truly, who needs Judith Butler if you can have Ayaan Hirsi Ali instead? Or how about the wonderful Qanta Ahmed? Ah, ok, Arabs, Rania Khalek wants Arabs: how about M. Zuhdi Jasser, Walid Shoebat, Wafa Sultan, Nonie Darwish, Khaled Abu Toameh, Mudar Zahran, or, for a young and fresh voice, Abdel Bioud? Rania Khalek might object that none of these writers reflect mainstream Arab or Muslim views, but for somebody like her who is so concerned about the “marginalized,” this should only count as a plus. And one thing is sure: none of these writers is less representative of Arab or Muslim views than Judith Butler is of mainstream Jewish views…
Which brings me to my last point: among the contributions to the BDS debate published by the Los Angeles Review of Books, there is a truly dazzling piece by Cary Nelson on “The Problem with Judith Butler: The Political Philosophy of the Movement to Boycott Israel” – very long, but thoroughly enjoyable.