The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

"The Arabist establishment"

The latest idiocy from Lee Smith: this one really has it all, including a cameo by his intellectual mentor Martin Kramer, blanket attacks on Western experts on the Middle East in general and Hizbullah in particular, and paranoid rantings about Arab genocidal ambitions.

My favorite paragraph:

My Jerusalem hotel is filled with refugees: Jews, Druze, and Israeli Arabs, from the north, who can afford to pay for the respite from the ongoing Hezbollah rocket attacks. Right around the corner is the American Colony, one of the best-known hotels in the region, famous not just for its beauty and elegance, but also its guests: U.N. employees, journalists, academics, NGO workers, civil society officials. In other words, the Arabist establishment. Some of them are truly anti-Semitic, like the one Arab who explained to me how Jews ruin everything around the world. This, he continued, is why the French put them on reservations back in the 1880s. However, most of the Arabists do not wish to see Israel disappear; they do not hate Jews or even Israelis.
So basically everyone who is not Martin Kramer, Daniel Pipes, Bernard Lewis or Lee Smith is "the Arabist establishment." Unreal. He then proceeds to smear them with a broad brush with accusations of anti-Semitism before retracting again (the damage having already been done by association.)

I won't even mention his conclusion about how Israel is fighting on two pre-1967 borders, which is completely dishonest after four decades of occupation and an ongoing land grab in the West Bank and Golan Heights. What I find really worrying is that Smith and the likes of him find such easy support among influential people like Kramer and Pipes, publications like the Weekly Standard, and institutions like the Hudson Institute. For any youngish writer or commentator on the Middle East, there is an enormous incentive to follow the Likudnik line when one can find gainful employment so easily by being pro-Israel (especially if you're Arab, actually -- these organizations have approached tons of up-and-coming Arab liberal intellectuals I know.) They are creating a vast intellectual straight-jacket in US thinking about the Middle East that accepts mediocre thinking as long as it toes the line. And the result is the kind rubbish quoted above.