AS`AD AbuKHALIL: Do You Condemn Israel?

The author confronts Western leaders and media for treating the Middle East region with ignorance, racism and disregard for Arab suffering.

Casualty in Gaza Strip, Oct. 17, during the 2023 War. (Fars Media Corporation, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY 4.0)

By As`ad AbuKhalil
Special to Consortium News 

It has become customary for Arabs invited on Western TV news programs to be asked, off the bat, to condemn this or that act that Israel classifies as terrorism.  

When I came to the U.S. in 1983, this was already standard practice.  But back then, the Palestinian “terrorists” were secular: so the media propaganda talked about the dangerous communist connections of the Palestinian Liberation Organization. 

Islamists were then treated with tenderness and even admiration. They were on the side of the U.S. in the Cold War and the U.S. and Saudi Arabia recruited from among them for the war in Afghanistan.  

In the 1980s, the “terrorist” menace was coming from Lebanon. When I appeared on the major networks (shortly after my arrival in Washington, D.C.), I was constantly asked to condemn this or that attack in Lebanon or in Palestine.

At first, I obliged but then started thinking about the implications of such a ritual.  You don’t get a seat (token at best) at the table unless you condemn, and according to Israeli definitions of terrorism and morality.   

In the 1980s, Arabs were also asked if they recognized the state of Israel.  What does that mean? Let us say that you are a Palestinian born in Haifa or Jaffa. If you were to recognize the state of Israel you are basically recognizing the legitimacy of the land grab of your home and the forced expulsion of your parents and grandparents from Palestine. 

If an Arab were to recognize the state of Israel, he or she would be accepting the fundamental racist inequality upon which the state of Israel was founded. 

And what if you are a secular person who does not accept a Muslim state or a Jewish state or a Christian state? In the West, you can be opposed (nay you are expected to be opposed) to the Islamic regime in Iran from a secular point of view, but you are considered anti-Semitic if you were to object to the religious identity of the state of Israel. 

Even “excessive” criticisms of Israel earn you the label of anti-Semitism (if you follow the State Department’s definition). 

Meanwhile, “excessive” criticism of Iran or Saudi Arabia are not considered tantamount to Islamophobia.  Clearly, special standards are applied to Israel to shield it from criticism and classification while special standards are applied on the Palestinian people to prevent them from opposing Israel, militarily or even peacefully (the BDS movement is now illegal, or severely discouraged, by more than 35 states in the U.S.). 

For the West, the Palestinians have to enjoy Israeli occupation in order to prove their membership in the human race.

[Related: Misdirecting the Fight Against Anti-Semitism]

I have watched Arab guests in recent weeks appearing on Western TV news shows and they were invariably asked that same question.  Do you condemn Hamas? Do you condemn the attack?  Do you believe that Hamas should be eliminated, yes or no?

(And it would be hard to explain to these TV hosts that this movement — like it or hate it — has captured the support of at least half of the Palestinian people.)  I have imagined myself in that chair and imagined my responses to those asinine questions.  

Turning the Tables

I would answer as follows: In what capacity are you asking me that question? How did you, the journalist, become my judge or my priest? And why are you treating me like an accused in a court of law and not as a guest in a TV studio?

Also what made you feel morally superior to me to determine the manner in which I can prove my worthiness as a human being? Why is my citizenship conditional to the correct answer to the question, merely due to my ethnic background as an Arab? 

Why isn’t the humanity of someone who is Israeli-born conditioned on his/her condemnation, not of one attack, but of a series of war crimes from the day Israel was born atop an existing and thriving Palestinian nation?

Palestinian refugees during the Nakba, or mass expulsion from their land by Israel, in 1948. (, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0)

In fact, I need to turn the tables on you.  I ask you, since Israel killed Palestinians at the rate of at least one a day last year alone, did you condemn those murders daily? If you condemned those murders, I would deem you morally qualified to demand that litmus test from me.  If, on the other hand, you failed to condemn every one of those murders, then I regard you as morally failing and utterly unqualified to pose questions as the morally superior human on this show.

I in fact, am more qualified to pose that question to you.  I am the judge, not you.  I am a victim of Israeli war crimes who grew up subjected to weekly Israeli bombardment in Lebanon (against Palestinians and Lebanese, civilians and combatants alike, with little regard for the distinctions as Israeli bombing was fairly indiscriminate). 

I should be coming to the U.S. to hold you to account for your official military and financial sponsorship or Israeli war crimes against me.  I, a human who barely survived the Israeli invasion of 1982 and the subsequent savage siege of Beirut, refuse to be asked to condemn anything from anyone, especially someone in the West working for a media that specializes in condoning Israeli war crimes.

Holding the West Accountable

You in the West are the ones who should be held accountable and forced to offer rituals of condemnations as Israeli war crimes have continued unabated, with full Western blessings, since the founding of the state. 

[Related: Craig Murray: Condemnation

In fact, Israeli mass violence against Arabs began as early as the 1890s, by the account of the leader of Cultural Zionism, Ahad Ha’am, who scolded the Zionist settlers in Palestine for mistreating and abusing Arabs and thinking of them like animals.  

I need to ask you all in Western media about your criminal responsibility for covering the Middle East region with ignorance and racism and for disregarding and distorting Arab views and for ignoring Arab suffering. That Western media and governments don’t value human lives equally between Arabs and Israelis is not something that has to be proven.  It is too obvious to need documentation.  

You invite us Arabs on your shows and start bombarding us on behalf of the state of Israel as soon as we are seated. 

Your objectivity is something that we mock. Objectivity is a trick that you apply to the media of developing countries to force them to adhere to your political standards; it also allows Western powers to impose a hegemony of ideas especially in times of war and occupation (their wars and occupations).

As far as condemnation is concerned, I condemn you all for your racism, unprofessional standards of journalism and your production of propaganda in the name of modern Western media.

Much of Western media these days carry long articles all based on unverified claims by Israeli military sources; this is not different from how they covered Ukraine, all based on Ukrainian and Western military sources.  They often insert a disclaimer that the information contained has not been verified. 

But don’t those Western countries teach in their journalism schools that unverified information can’t be published? Arab military or political unverified claims are never published unless they are run by the Israeli and NATO militaries for verification or refutation.

What the World Is Seeing

The one thing that will come out of this is that people of color around the world can see for themselves the extent to which race and ethnicity play a big part in shaping the foreign policies of Western countries.  The different price tags placed on human lives has never been more strikingly clear.  

Arabs and Muslims have seen that not only don’t their lives matter to Westerners but that their status in Western countries is lower and will only get lower with the rise of far-right parties and with the adoption of a far-right immigration agenda by mainstream center and left parties in Europe.  

The West has not had the opportunity to assess the effects of the Gaza slaughter on its relationship with the East or with Africa and Asia and South America. 

The West is acting as a monolithic bloc of white Christian nations bent on imposing their will on the southern half of the globe. And when China comes to nations of the South for help without extracting demeaning political concessions, the West has the temerity to warn those countries of ulterior motives.  

The Arab and Muslim worlds are increasingly radicalized, and the West by its reaction to Israeli assaults on Gaza, has made Hamas more popular than ever.  Even those who used to criticize Hamas find it now difficult to do so.  Jordanian journalist, Bassam Baddarin, observed that Abu `Ubayda (the spokesman of the military wing of Hamas) could be elected in any Arab country.  

That is your doing.

As`ad AbuKhalil is a Lebanese-American professor of political science at California State University, Stanislaus. He is the author of the Historical Dictionary of Lebanon (1998), Bin Laden, Islam and America’s New War on Terrorism (2002), The Battle for Saudi Arabia (2004) and ran the popular The Angry Arab blog. He tweets as @asadabukhalil

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

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25 comments for “AS`AD AbuKHALIL: Do You Condemn Israel?

  1. samm
    November 2, 2023 at 22:46

    Piers Morgan doesn’t get to decide who can condemn Israel and who can’t. Besides, you’d think Israelis knew something about genocide and ethnic cleansing, but apparently they do NOT. Until they do all they deserve is condemnation.

  2. WillD
    November 2, 2023 at 22:20

    Israel has been twice cursed – by its own hand in its brutal treatment of Palestinians over the decades, and by its toxic relationship to hardliner neocon western countries, particularly the USA, which support it and turn a blind eye to its atrocities.

    This is not antisemitism. It is not a statement of religious preference or bias, even though I use the word ‘cursed’ deliberately – for effect.

    Any country that employs such draconian measures to attack and oppress people – any people, even its own, deserves the strongest condemnation. And when it goes SO far as to repeatedly commit war crimes and genocide, it deserves the most severe punishments imaginable.

    If Israel were a person, convicted of its crimes at The Hague, then there would be only two possible punishments, capital or life imprisonment with no parole.

    • robert e williamson jr
      November 3, 2023 at 15:21

      WillD, Spot on and well said.

      How can a people lose 6 million people of their own and not learn anything besides hate. Friggin’ boggles the mind.

      • Francesca Testi
        November 4, 2023 at 10:50

        Your question contains its answer: “their own.” Until we stop identifying ourselves as anything other than “human,” this particular type of slaughter will continue.

  3. wildthange
    November 2, 2023 at 21:14

    Unfortunately this is all fueled by western antisemitism at the inception of a Roman created religion weaponized to protect a Roman occupation of areas of the Middle East based on monotheism which later came to claim a gods permission to rule the entire world and use antisemitism to blame scapegoats for plagues.
    Now guilt ridden we transferred our problem with pogroms to the middle east when it all was started by Rome. Meanwhile we have stolen entire continents for our religion and are again pivoting to Asia where we were originally aiming for as the silk road became too dangerous. A road China has the nerve to try an open again.
    Meanwhile we have new scapegoats in the Middle East and Iran has come down with the religious state bug. Even worse the military conversion to oil based systems created WWI which then created a communist state that create the need for WWII that made thingd worse for everyone creating the Cold War we now are addicted to reinvigorating.

  4. Vera Gottlieb
    November 2, 2023 at 15:27

    As a PS: to Piers Morgan comment…you ARE FULL OF IT! How about condemning the Zionists for all the years of persecuting, killing, making the lives of Palestinians – inside and outside of israel, sheer hell? All the violence of the settlers? A deafening silence…

  5. Vera Gottlieb
    November 2, 2023 at 15:23

    It is clearly been shown time and again that whoever dares to condemn israel will be smeared as being ‘anti Semite’. And the West is to fearful to dare stand up to the Zionists.

  6. Tim N
    November 2, 2023 at 12:56

    So accurate and damning! I don’t ever watch TV “news” and stopped reading newspapers years ago. It’s sickening and outrageous to see those liars and equivocators get up every day and justify Genocide and mass murder. Israel of course is a sick and depraved country, but what of the US? MLK warned that the US was approaching a spiritual death over 50 years ago. We arrived at that some time ago, and now the whole world understands it. Perhaps many more here will start to see it too.

  7. bobzz
    November 2, 2023 at 11:10

    “Clearly, special standards are applied to Israel to shield it from criticism and classification …”

    Those standards also shield Israel from self-examination. Zionists have black holes where their consciences belong.

  8. November 2, 2023 at 10:44

    Human decency is anachronistic when it comes to Palestine, or to any enemy of the NATO alliance (i.e., the United States military industrial complex against which Ike warned sixty-three years ago). Of course, reading the Tanakh, perhaps in an Abrahamic context human decency has always been anathema.

  9. November 2, 2023 at 06:10

    Until the western rulers give up their biased views that Israel is an oasis of democracy and an outpost of the civilised world, there will be more Palestinian bloodshed.

    • samm
      November 2, 2023 at 19:04

      By the time western rulers give up their biases there won’t be any Palestinians left, hell will have frozen over, and the sun will have gone supernova.

  10. CaseyG
    November 1, 2023 at 22:39

    America—-what are you doing? I don’t understand how you can treat the Palestinians as non people—a people who have a history which neither the US nor Israel will recognize. But then America and Biden—i think you have thrown this nation away for a nation that is more evil than the Nazis . Where did America go, or was it always an illusion of what we thought it was?

    • J Anthony
      November 3, 2023 at 08:05

      It was an illusion, a carefully-crafted facade so that business-as-usual (capitalist/colonial exploitation on a mass-scale) can go on unabated. We have the freedom to criticize and complain without repercussions all we like, but once anyone substantially challenges the established system, you see how quickly they are pounced upon. Assassination, arrests, threats, co-option, sabotage, diversion; we can make all the noise in the world but as soon as a genuine movement takes root it is almost just as quickly destroyed. When a political leader speaks of systemic change and finds an audience, they are made dead, or if not killed, then their lives ruined and their name dragged through the mud via mass media. I hope by now that the illusion is finally crumbling, that more people are seeing through it here in the west, as we are one of if not the most propagandized country on Earth.

  11. Jim Thomas
    November 1, 2023 at 17:36

    I condemn both Israel and the U.S. for this ongoing genocide of the Palestinians. Anyone who knows the history of the Nakba – mass murder of Palestinians and theft of their land and resources – understands that neither Israel nor the U.S. (honest broker? what a joke!) has ever dealt with the Palestinians in good faith on the issue of the division of land between Israel and Palestine. The “two state solution” has always been a smoke screen for delay while Israel steals more and more land. Now the second Nakba featuring horrific war crimes by Israel with the aid and assistance of the U.S. Decent people do not do this to any people.

    • GC
      November 1, 2023 at 19:14

      I Agree.

  12. Valerie
    November 1, 2023 at 17:19

    “The West has not had the opportunity to assess the effects of the Gaza slaughter on its relationship with the East or with Africa and Asia and South America.”

    Perhaps not. But three countries in South America have made it known their “condemnation” of Israel, by cutting relations and recalling ambassadors; Bolivia, Chile and Colombia. We need more of this kind of action. Bravo América del Sur.

  13. robert e williamson jr
    November 1, 2023 at 17:02

    I learned long ago that watching the MSM interview of anyone who held any negative view of Israel was in reality watching the media source pay homage to Israel by patronizing their pro- Arab quest. No rules for the interviewer and no leeway for the interviewee.

    Outrageous behavior from the individual tasked with doing an interview presented as being unbiased.

    The situation has become immersed in the rot of segregation based in profoundly biased beliefs of those enamored with Christian based self-righteous, pious beliefs in many cases and in others the unfettered loyalties of the pro-Israel extremists. Hardly any ground left for, as they say, a level playing field.

    The loyalty required by many or most organized religions relieves the individual of the responsibility to think freely about true freedom or justice. The exercise of ferreting out the dissemblance engaged in by both parties, religious beliefs notwithstanding. They are free to take on a tainted belief that allows their opinions are dictate to them their opinion.

    Their religion dictates where there opinions lie in manners such as the current inhuman conduct on both sides of the current conflict in Gaza. A conflict, that if it were honestly and factually, deconstructed could be seen and known for exactly what is actually is. A conflict driven by the asymmetry artificially created by the involvement of the United States, in my opinion,the most foul interloper, who has historically influenced the asymmetry for some unexplained reason from the onset of the problems in the region.

    I have learned during my life why so many disregard the agnostic as being of any real value to the argument here. I have learned here that the religious entities involved here say I must take a side, to those I answer, I will not based on mysticism, side with either party and void my own beliefs and values. Wanton killing is against every value I have and is never justified because the human involved believe he and he is on the right side based on religion or history.

    It is time to make new history, one of peace and understanding of the other and not be consumed by hate and fear. Otherwise we all deserve to have the planet remove us

    So my answer to the question posed here is yes I do but they are not the only party who needs a good swift kick in the ass.

    With the utmost respect to “AS`AD AbuKHALIL.

    Thanks CN

    • Valerie
      November 1, 2023 at 17:55

      ” A conflict driven by the asymmetry artificially created by the involvement of the United States, in my opinion,the most foul interloper, who has historically influenced the asymmetry for some unexplained reason from the onset of the problems in the region.”

      You got that right robert jr. I lived in the Middle East for 25 years in various countries and there was never any shortage of American influence. Some of an humanitarian nature and others of military nature. British influence too, to be fair.

      “I have learned during my life why so many disregard the agnostic as being of any real value to the argument here.”

      That goes for the athiests too. Strange isn’t it, but i am not aware of any wars instigated by agnostics or athiests.

  14. Michael C Kemper
    November 1, 2023 at 15:44

    I have issues with the Israeli government’s actions. I do not condemn anyone or any body.

    • Tim N
      November 2, 2023 at 12:46

      You have “issues?”

  15. gcw919
    November 1, 2023 at 15:35

    I went online today (11/1) to the New York Times website. I looked in vain on the front page to find any mention of the bombing (now twice) of the refugee camp in north Gaza. We are witnessing crimes against humanity on a daily basis, but the “paper of record” chooses not to mention it. No wonder the American public blindly follows this despicable American administration in sanctioning and financing genocide. Al Jazeera is one alternative if you want to see what is happening on the ground in Gaza.

  16. BettyK
    November 1, 2023 at 15:31

    Well said – and Amen! I would add that it is not just the far right parties, but neocons of both parties who contribute to and support this criminality.

    • T J
      November 1, 2023 at 17:35

      I agree it is not just far right and this shows we all have much to learn and listen without judgement.

  17. Drew Hunkins
    November 1, 2023 at 13:03

    People demand we all condemn Hamas. I say, what’s the rush?

    Toussaint Louverture was condemned at the time, only to be praised later.
    Nat Turner was condemned at the time only, only to be praised later.
    Nelson Mandela was condemned at the time, only to be praised later.
    Arafat was condemned at the time, only to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

    So let’s not rush to denounce Hamas bc we might change our minds.

    (I’m indebted to Shahid Bolsen for the above analysis.)

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