A View From The Ivory Tower

sillyspeakers

Well, today has been a VERY interesting day, from nonsensical pronouncements on “Palestine” to curiously timed assaults on my “rudeness” by a very rude professor, it has been a learning experience to say the least.

Today, at Scripps College in lovely and beloved Claremont, Ca I attended a panel (not what you could call a discussion, more a multi-lecture) on , well, I will let the Scripps Website tell it:

“Scripps College will host a panel discussion on Friday, February 12, 2010 from 12:00-2:00 p.m. with four distinguished experts on United States foreign policy in the Middle East. The event, “Report Card: Evaluating the Obama Administration’s First Year of Middle East Policy,” will take place in the Hampton Room, Malott Commons, on the Scripps College campus and is free and open to the public.

This distinguished Middle East panel — including the Editor and Editorial Committee members of the prominent journal Middle East Report — will explore diverse Middle East issues, including the War in Iraq, the closing of Guantanamo, the challenges of life in Palestine, and piracy on the Red Sea.

Speakers include:

  • Lisa Hajjar, Professor of Law and Society, UC Santa Barbara and author of Courting Conflict: The Israeli Military Court System in the West Bank and Gaza
  • Julie Peteet, Chair and Professor of Anthropology, University of Louisville and author of Gender in Crisis: Women and the Palestinian Resistance Movement and Landscape of Hope and Despair: Palestinian Refugee Camps”

Two others had been scheduled to speak but were snowed in on the East Coast (You know, Global Warming).

Fair and balanced was probably not the best way to describe Ms. Peteet’s presentation.  To be polite, she seemed to me to display all the classic symptoms of a strong case of WhatInconvenientFacts Syndrome.

From an inability to see Israeli concerns about security as anything but “rhetoric” to expressing amazement at Israeli soldiers getting into ambulances to confirm that the occupants are really injured (Hamas has been filmed during the latest Israeli response using ambulances donated by charities as personnel carriers for armed men) Ms. Peteet sees the world the way Ms. Peteet wants to see it.

I asked her during the Q&A why everything she spoke of put all responsibility on Israel to have open borders with a “state”, actually I believe I said “people”, that has openly and consistently for years declared it’s intent to see Israel no more – especially when Israel is hardly the only country bordering either Gaza or the West Bank.

Rather than actually answer this question, Ms. Peteet actually declared that in the 60’s the Arabs were not responsible when ISRAEL redrew the map.  Then, she went on to say that it is “international law” that the “host” state’s ( i.e. the state the “refugees” originated in) responsibility to handle said refugees.

Are you following her logic Virginia?  Half the Arab world’s armies were on the march toward Israel’s borders,  and Egypt had already closed the straits of Tiran to Israel ( already a casus belli) then expelled the UN Peacekeeper force at the border, but it is ISRAEL’s fault for being the first to fire a shot.

It should also be noted I had asked about borders and trade, not about resettlement of refugees!

As a follow-up I asked if it was the case that host countries were responsible for their own refugees would she agree that the Arab states were responsible for giving a right of return to all expelled Jews from 1948 and their descendants.

This champion of the downtrodden coldly informed me that no Jews had been expelled from anywhere in 1947 or 48, period. So, I asked if that meant that the Arabs who left Israel without force were also “not refugees”. Her answer was less than detailed;  “This conversation is OVER.”

I asked the above questions at the very end of the event after it had started to break up. I had not been called on after my first question despite little competition from the audience.

Once I had asked that first question a professor hopped up from his seat, (no, he was NOT one of the actual event organizers) and intimidated my assistant out of her seat to plop down next to me and (while the lectures were still going on and making it impossible for ME to hear what was being said) berate me for being so rude as to not have gone up, in the one minute after I arrived before the event started, introduce myself AND IDENTIFY WHO I WROTE FOR and THEN ask for permission to record.

Now I had been recording voice openly  and my asst. was shooting photos. She even accidently let loose one flash shot! So I am sure that the entire panel and the moderator were aware of what I was doing, yet had said and done nothing about it!

This professor had taken it upon himself to harass me ONLY after I had asked a question that showed me to be less than a member of the choir on the Israel question.

Just like a redneck telling the city black that the “Standards of the Community” required certain extra-legal rules to be followed this defender of academic freedom expected me to conform to unstated, biased and unenforced rules lest I be declared “terribly rude and even “disruptive.”

I replied that his harassing me and not letting the speaker be heard was far ruder.  Then he began to berate me for the tiny sound my blackberry keys made as I took notes.  This sound would have been totally inaudible to him if he had not displaced my assistant from her seat to lean into me and lecture in my ear.

He then glanced at my notes, didn’t like what he saw and declared it also against “Common courtesy” to text message during the event.  I informed him in a less than patient tone that if he had bothered to READ the top of the page he would have noticed that it said Word to Go – Untitled.doc in larger print than the notes that had offended him.

All in all it was an adventure exploring the limits of human silliness in defense of the indefensible.

Oh, I should add that in two hours of talk about “Palestine”, and Israel, and the terrible plight of “Palestinians”, and how they were being used and controlled to their detriment, two words were NEVER MENTIONED BY ANYONE, but me, in my first question.

What were the words that these eminent scholars felt had NOTHING to do with the problems of “Palestine and “Palestinians”?

Fatah and Hamas, of course.

Oh, again, the ONLY thing in the whole event that was about Obama at all was a tiny bit at the end, dissing him for keeping only a few of his campaign promises and otherwise following in George Bush’s footsteps.  There was FAR more talk about the “sins of Bush and Cheney” than about anything Obama had done, good or bad.

A good time was had by all…at least once Ms. Peteet got away from my uncomfortable questions.

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