I thought I’d publish my correspondence with Manji in parts, but now I just want to get it over with. Spending more time on someone so far beneath contempt is unjustifiable when this morning’s CBC report said there have been 280 Iraqis killed in Fallujah alone since Sunday. Western media deflate Iraqi casualties; there are more cities that the Americans are attacking; these numbers come from hospital estimates and it is guaranteed that not everyone is getting to the hospitals; in other words, there is a major massacre unfolding here. Manji is an unaffordable diversion. So, I’ll publish the entire correspondence below, and have done.
When Manji wrote me the first time, I was as much amused as anything else. She was obviously bluffing. I hadn’t read her book yet, but I had seen her speech and gone through her website carefully and it was quite clear that she was not someone who was going to put her body on the line to protect Palestinian civilians (though I didn’t realize the depths of her racism until I read her book). So, I figured I would call her bluff. Here’s what I wrote back (interspersed, her words in italics):
Greetings. Irshad here. I’m writing to explore next steps with regard to sending me on a journalistic mission under the auspices of the International Solidarity Movement. I’ve checked out both websites that you’ve given to me, and look forward to learning more.
Given my crazy schedule for the next several months, I would hope to go in the very late spring or early summer.
Late spring or early summer sounds fine. The ISM normally has a ‘freedom summer’ campaign. Should you go in late spring, you will be between campaigns, but there will still be plenty going on.
ISM is normally caught up in issues of the moment — house demolitions, incursions, volunteers being deported, and so on — so the Palestine-side folks won’t be able to help much until you’re there. But folks in Canada probably can, at least somewhat, at least to answer your questions — you can certainly write me to answer any questions, for example. But basically all you need to do is go through the website, follow the instructions, travel there, and attend the training and screening in the territories.
From this point on in the email, you should take this as a personal email from me and not as a note from a ‘representative’ of ISM. Having read your book, I should tell you that this mission wouldn’t be like the one you went on in July 2002 — ISM is not in a position to pay plane tickets or expenses for volunteers, who normally raise their own funds through events and so on.
Volunteers get to the occupied territories and then join the ISM for trainings and then (nonviolent) actions, reporting, etc. As you can imagine, given that many would-be volunteers have been turned away, and others have been arrested, deported, (in the case of Tom Hurndall, Brian Avery, Coimhe Butterly, and others) shot and even (in Rachel Corrie’s case) killed by Israeli authorities, ISM is quite conscious of security and has a screening and training process. It asks that participants agree to some basic principles of unity, which you can find at both sites. These include adherence to nonviolence in practice, but they also include solidarity with the rights of Palestinians under international law and others, as you can read about. If you can in good faith agree with these principles and can join ISM without endangering yourself, other ISM volunteers, or Palestinians, then you’re set to go. My own feeling, having read your book and heard your talk, is that you would not be able to accept these principles of solidarity. But it is not my decision.
Last, and again speaking not as an ISM volunteer, I have written a review of your book for a radical site called ‘ZNet’, where I’m a frequent writer. Some of those you mention or reference in your book, including Noam Chomsky, Robert Fisk, Tariq Ali, and the late Edward Said, have writing featured on this site. Likewise a lot of progressive Israelis, notably Amira Hass, Gideon Levy, Tanya Reinhart, Baruch Kimmerling, and Neve Gordon. If you’d like to respond to the review, ZNet would probably publish your reply, along with my own reply to your reply.
Her next reply escalated the bluff, and admittedly had me worried. It became obvious that she did not want to debate, but instead wanted to turn this into an opportunity to attack the ISM. I should have understood that from the beginning: while for me, the invitation and the correspondence was an opportunity to show the world what a fraud she is, from her point of view, this was an opportunity to join the mainstream chorus denouncing, smearing, and slandering ISM and spitting on the grave of people like Rachel Corrie.
Here’s her next note:
Jan 2, 2004
1) I knew about your review of my book when I emailed you the first time. I’ll be posting your review on my website shortly. Ain’t democracy great?
2) I’ve gone through the ismcanada website and, unless my eyes deceive me (very possible), I’ve missed the statement of unity that you mention. Do you mean familiarizing myself with the following:
* Going For the Right Reasons
* Respecting the Spirit of the ISM
If so, I’ve read it and I’m not sure what you think is so distasteful to me. On key fronts, I want the same things that the ISM does: an independent Palestinian state alongside a sovereign Jewish state, an end to the Israeli occupation (with clear and enforceable guarantees that the Israeli people will have secure borders after a withdrawal of troops), justice for the people of Palestine (which entails ending the corruption of the PA – an issue I don’t see tackled by the ISM). What is it about any of the above that the ISM would disagree with, even if it isn’t vocal about the need to be critical of PA human rights abuses and monetary manipulations?
In the spirit of my questions above, I will not be told what to think. Indeed, the conditions under which I went on my first, CIC-sponsored, trip to Israel were a) that I would be able to ask any questions I wanted, no matter who approved or disapproved; and 2) that I would have a hand in helping to shape the itinerary.
Will both conditions be met on any trip to the Occupied Territories under the International Solidarity Movement? Will representatives of the ISM attend meetings with Zionists in Israel, just as Canada-Israel Committee reps attended meetings with anti-Zionists in the Occupied Territories (and beyond)? If so, I can go with integrity.
But if not, I won’t pander to double-standards.
The choice is the ISM’s.
Between her chortle about ‘democracy’ (there is a bizarre part in her book where she, presumably quoting from Fareed Zakaria without attribution, says it was ‘democracy’ that brought the Nazis to power so democracy isn’t always good… leaving aside the fact that it wasn’t ‘democracy’ that brought the Nazis to power but a putsch, I suppose one can’t expect her to remember her own book in every email), her talking about ‘integrity’, her failure to find the ISM’s principles of unity that are more or less front and centre on the palsolidarity.org website, and her failure to understand the disproportion between Israel (that is deliberately starving hundreds of thousands in Gaza) and PA corruption, I was rather too stunned to realize a simple fact: if all she wanted to do was a ‘journalistic mission’ why would she need ISM or anyone else to co-set up an itinerary?
But when I got that note, I was quite worried that I had created a situation where ISM activists and Palestinians would suffer for my writing to Manji. She would get a little more fame, perhaps prolong her 15 minutes, and the ISM would get a little more bad press, leading to more headaches and more problems for an organization that has already been hit extremely hard by repression. So, I made a point of telling her that she wouldn’t be welcome with ISM: the ISM has a screening process, and she could consider herself screened out.
In retrospect, I could simply have laid out an itinerary for her — the real refuseniks, some real journalists with integrity (Amira Hass, Gideon Levy), some serious researchers (Jeff Halper, Tanya Reinhart, Ilon Pappe, Baruch Kimmerling), some serious peace activists (Uri Avnery) — and all this without her ever having to leave Israel’s borders. I could have told her to try to get into Rafah, and spend some time watching bulldozers slowly raze the place to the ground… perhaps take one of those embarrassing photos of herself in front of a bulldozed house or a bullet-filled building, or maybe even in the wreckage of a missile attack. But instead, I wrote this:
Jan 2, 2004
Starting with 1), and me, as opposed to ISM. On the review and your posting it — I do agree that the most open and free debate and discussion is important, that pandering to double standards is a bad thing. If you want to debate on the internet any of the points raised in the article — on your site or elsewhere, ZNet for example, feel free to engage on any of them, and we will proceed from there. I would be pleased to have our correspondence go in that direction.
I said that I didn’t think that you would fit ISM’s criteria, and let me clarify further, because I think I miscommunicated something. My intention was to let you know that ISM has an open call for volunteers and that you could easily have gone to join ISM and seen ‘the other side’, to use your expression, and were not limited to presenting the limited and distorted view of the conflict that you present because ‘no one answered your email’. If you really are interested and ISM doesn’t fit, there must be other groups that probably have delegations that are closer to what you are looking for. The Bay Area’s ewish Voice for Peace (www.jewishvoiceforpeace.org), perhaps, or a journal like MERIP, (www.merip.org), or Toronto-based groups like the CJP-IP, etc.
Having said that, I think that your going with ISM would be a waste of their time and yours, at best. At worst, I think you would endanger the lives of activists working under very difficult conditions. I also think you would end up smearing and slandering ISM and misrepresenting its views the way you have smeared people like Edward Said, Tariq Ali, and Robert Fisk, all of which is spelled out in my review of your book. ISM has been smeared and slandered before, and survived it, but it isn’t something they should have to deal with on top of everything else.
But in any case, if you took what I said at Ryerson and in my review to mean that ISM could arrange a special fact-finding mission for you, that was my mistake. It can’t. It can only afford to take sincere, principled activists who want to work in genuine solidarity with Palestinians. This includes plenty of Israelis, of course, and plenty of people who consider themselves Zionists, which should also be obvious. But again, having read your book, I don’t think it applies to you. If there is a miscommunication here, it is my fault, for misrepresenting ISM’s open call to people of conscience to be an invitation to you to go on a fact-finding mission equivalent to that of the Canada-Israel Congress. I don’t know too much about the CIC, but I suspect that their offices have not been raided, dozens of their volunteers arrested and deported, and some of them shot or killed (as I detailed in a previous email). The ISM does not have the resources to arrange a special fact-finding mission for you — it does not do fact-finding missions, it is for committed activists who want to (nonviolently) act against the occupation under very difficult conditions. A solidarity trip is different from a fact-finding trip. This has nothing to do with telling people what to think or double standards. It has to do with what the ISM does and is. Again, I take responsibility for the miscommunication.
Dealing with 2), and ISM specifically, as opposed to me, my views, and my mistakes in communication.
The relevant parts of the site for activists to decide if they can accept ISM’s call for volunteers are on the www.palsolidarity.org site. They are here:
Particularly these — this is the ‘statement of unity’ you were looking for but didn’t find:
“*We support the Palestinian right to resist the occupation, as provided for by International Law;
*We call for an immediate end to the occupation and immediate compliance and implementation of all relevant UN resolutions;
*We call for immediate international intervention to protect the Palestinian people and ensure Israel’s compliance with International Law.”
But the entire page is relevant.
Also, the ISM’s mission is here:
This is highly relevant. One expression of their invitation to people of the world is this:
“Because Israeli violence against civilians in Palestine has worsened, and the repression of the Occupation has tightened, many international allies of the Palestinian cause want to do more than write letters, demonstrate, present programs, form solidarity delegations, or send humanitarian aid. They want to do something more dramatic to stop Israeli attacks on Palestinian neighbourhoods and people with bombs and bullets, or closures and curfews, and to stop the United States from massively rewarding Israel for its brutality and protecting its occupation of Palestine They want to take direct action that will oppose the Occupation and force Israel to withdraw from the West Bank East Jerusalem, and Gaza.
“If this describes your feelings, this call is for you.”
The 4 goals stated in the mission statement are as follows:
“The International Solidarity Movement aims to do four things:
1: to dramatize the terrible conditions under which Palestinians live because of the Occupation, and to protect them from physical violence from Israeli soldiers and settlers. We work under the leadership of Palestinian peace activists, supporting them in their creative resistance to the Occupation, and lending support to Israeli and other peace activist groups.
2: to pressure International news media to focus on the illegality and brutality of the Occupation, and to so change public opinion that it demands that Israel respect international law, and that America stops funding Israel with billions of dollars each year.
3: to recruit volunteers from other nations to undertake non-violent resistance to the Occupation.
4:to establish divestment campaigns in the US and Europe to put economic pressure on Israel the same way the international community put pressure South Africa during the apartheid regimes.”
These are the most relevant parts of the ISM site to help you decide if you can join the ISM. It is an open call, to people who share these goals and principles and want to act on them. Those are ISM’s criteria.
And so ended my interaction with the Muslim Refusenik, who is now making money in the United States and being paraded on television as a middle east expert (she cites one op-ed from the Boston Globe on the Sudan five times when discussing Israel/Palestine). A debate with me would have been no help to her career, I suppose. It’s just as well: there is little time for this nonsense right now.