Friday, June 01, 2012


Here's a brilliant piece from Michael Totten that reminds us how hatred can spring from places that once promised a new spring.

“Are you Zionists?”


“What if we were Zionists?” I said, directing my question to Ahmed as much as to our interlocutors.

“They wouldn’t talk to you,” he said.

I was annoyed and tempted to say, never mind then, we’re done here. How would they feel if I opened an interview by asking if they were terrorists? Part of me wanted to get thrown out of their office, not because I itch for fights on the job, but because I learn as much from one interview that goes off the rails as I do from six that are predictable. But I don’t sabotage interviews. That’s up to the folks on the other side of the table. And anyway, conversations like this one that merely go wobbly, rather than implode catastrophically, can also be more revealing than typical ones.

Did I lie when I said I wasn’t a Zionist? What’s a Zionist, anyway? A person who thinks Israel has a right to exist? If so, then, yes, I suppose I’m a Zionist, or perhaps just a Zionist sympathizer since I am not Jewish. But these working-class mustachios in Tunisia’s back-of-beyond have another, more phantasmagorical, definition of the notorious Z-word. I’m certainly not a Zionist as they define one. Neither is Armin Rosen.

“We are not against Jews,” said the man behind the desk in whose office we sat, “but Zionists didn’t go to Palestine to coexist peacefully with Arab nations. They went there to take land from Palestinians and kill them. This is not a country that wants to peacefully coexist. This is a country that wants war between Arab nations.”

This is nonsense on stilts, of course, and since he and his colleagues wanted to know if Armin and I support that, then, no, neither of us lied, not really, when we said we weren’t Zionists.

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