*Illustration by Sara El-Yafi
Note: This is the open letter I wrote to Israel as a response to the Israeli sympathizers angrily reacting to the Israeli Mezze Station post and Harvard University's response. The links to their unhappy articles can be found at the end of this post. I would like to believe that this post here is a pseudo dialogue with Israeli sympathizers, and if you read the comments below my post, you will see that many people in our region want to engage in a constructive dialogue too, but this calls for having mutual respect for the dignity of people. It is interesting to note that this all happened on Facebook. Thank you to everyone who closely followed this story. May peace, happiness and flowers prevail in our world.
To the people and friends of Israel:
I’ve never addressed an entire nation and its Facebook friends so I am excited.
Off the bat, let me say that I come in peace. In case peace is an unfamiliar word, it means both the absence of violence as well as the presence of positive and respectful intentions.
Following the Israeli Mezze cancellation at Harvard Business School after the popular post that I have published on Facebook, a series of violent and hateful articles in addition to many disrespectful comments have erupted across the web against Sara El-Yafi (moi) and Harvard University. The authors are all Israeli sympathizers who, to put it mildly, felt compelled to voice how ‘bothered’ they were by Harvard’s respectful answer to my post and all the people’s comments on the thread.
First. Let me say what’s on the minds of most of the non-Zionists of the world: you use the word ‘antisemitic’ like a 16-year-old Californian girl uses the word ‘like’, and it can become irritating. Antisemitic is a very, very serious accusation with a very dangerous violent connotation that should never be freely used whenever you feel a tad ‘irritated’. It is dangerous. My post or the subsequent taking down of the Israeli Mezze Station is not a move against Judaism or Israel, but it is a move in favor of honoring the heritage of all Middle Easterners, including our very own Jews. Indeed, for the handful of Jews who still live in Arab lands today, that is their food too, and those Jews are not Israeli, they are Lebanese, Syrian, Moroccan etc. My post cannot be termed antisemitic because the matter at hand is not your religion, but it is the appropriation of culture by another culture. I have met with the heads of the Syrian Jewish community in Damascus in 2008. Guess what the food was? Hummus, fattush and barazek. OMG, like, how come? Because in addition to being Jewish, they are Syrian and they eat the local food, just like the Muslims, the Christians and the Alawites do. So you see, your antisemitic allegations are out-of-context. Neither I, nor the wonderful people who have liked, shared or commented on the Israeli Mezze threads are antisemitic. In fact, I bet you that every single one of us has Jewish friends, every single one of us reads, watches, listens to & admires the great works of Jewish people, many of us have fallen in love with Jewish men and women, and some of us may even still have a crush on a beautiful Jewish man or woman who doesn’t know we exist; I know I do, his name is Stewart, Jon Stewart, and I would leave my boyfriend for him. Fact. Antisemitic, hateful behavior is simply not condoned within my circle of friends and household. And for all the people on the thread, we are simply people who value our heritage and would like to see others, starting with you, respect our heritage as Harvard University has. And HBS should be duly commended for having stood up for heritage for they would have done the same for you if we walked around campus wearing kippahs claiming them to be typical Lebanese garments.
Second. Please understand that responding with hatred and showing your annoyance at my post by “making fun” of the plight of the Palestinians, insulting me and Harvard University or aggressing peaceful people on the thread is embarrassing for you more than for anyone else. The proof is that you delete your hateful comments on my thread because they anger nobody, so you resort to the anti-Arab threads (see link #3 at the end) to voice your racist opinions instead of posting it on the mother thread. Your hatred for Palestinians cannot be the overarching theme in all of your dialogues, it makes no sense here. To the Harvard graduate McGill professor who attacked my post by attacking Palestinians, you should know that my post has nothing to do with the specific Palestinian identity; the photograph was taken by an Egyptian friend and the post was written by me and I am Lebanese. I proceeded to denounce the termed ‘Israeli foods’ on behalf of Lebanese, Syrians, Jordanians, Moroccans, Tunisians, Algerians, Libyans, Egyptians, Palestinians, Greeks, Turks, Italians, and Cypriots altogether i.e. it is a denouncement on behalf of the Mediterranean! Where you saw the “Palestinian terrorism” is a mystery to me. You “invented” the Palestinian edge in your article because you took it as a stage opportunity to beat on the Palestinians. You are free to do so, and will surely find an audience to cheer you on, but in this case, being a professor at such a respectable university as well as a notable Harvard graduate, I believe the least you can do is communicate your ideas after having fact-checked the entire issue instead of resorting to calling me a “bully” (thanks btw) and taking the opportunity to call the Palestinians terrorists and “intellectual bullies” (??). I am sure you would give an F to your McGill students if they handed in their history final paper filled with arguments supported with false information that hasn’t been fact-checked and/or referenced. So you my dear just got an F.
Third. To the one(s) who accused me of being an anti-Israeli Islamic fundamentalist: Yes! How did you know! That is exactly what I am! I thought that my Facebook profile outfit would actually hide my identity, but now I am busted, you saw right through me. I look forward to introducing you to my four wives, but they are all busy now in the kitchen (where they sleep) cooking my halal midnight snack. You are right, foods have religious biases and preferences and so it is wise of you to make of this food fight a religious one. You see, as most Jews, I too am lactose intolerant, so I suggest we get together and wage jihad on dairy products as lactose is clearly antisemitic (all these Jewish lactose allergies!). If you agree to that, please write another sensical article on jpost or on your blogs announcing your hatred for antisemitic dairy products, it will be “our sign”. I will then mail you a booklet instructions on “How to wage Jihad on Cheeses Christ.” We’ll then proceed by blowing ourselves up in the Danone and Nestle headquarters and go straight to heaven so I can finally be with my 72 virgins whom I cannot wait to meet! Can’t wait for all these pillow fights and virgin hair braiding!! The best part is that Harvard University, the notorious Islamic institution (how did you know!) will be funding the entire operation, so you don’t have to worry about airfare, we got that covered! *wink*
Look… To put it in mild terms, you and us, we have a very strained relationship. By ‘we’, I mean we people of the Middle East and you Israelis and friends of Israel. And whether we like it or not, we’re gonna have to work it out one of these days. The best minds of the world will tell you that nobody has ever won a debate by “making fun of” or “using insults on” your adversary. It doesn’t work. If you call me “stupid”, “psychotic”, “bully” or “bitch” with no constructive argument, it doesn’t make your argument stronger, in fact, it does just the opposite, it makes you lose your ground, if you have one. You might be too used to winning all your battles easily because you are used to employing full-fledged force and you’ve never been forced to sit at a table and look us in the eye and speak constructive arguments, but soon, you’re gonna have to learn. Saying things along the lines of “what a sad life Arabs have” or “haha well the pesky Palestinians still don’t have a home” or “f*ck Harvard University, they are Islamists” makes for emotional terrorism, rather than constructive argument, and it makes you, your country and your cause look very bad.
I have written this on my last post, but I know you have not read it. So I will say it again because it is so important: There are only two scenarios that might make our relationship work:
1. One of us disappears. 2. We coexist.
Due to mechanical, physical, and chemical limitations of our dear planet, the first scenario is simply impossible. No full-blown catastrophe can have such precise and rapid results as to rid us of all members of one camp. The only recorded history of a vanishing race is that of very, very old and isolated civilizations who were not connected to an outside world and who did not have online dating –> Not today’s case, and certainly not YOUR case (ehhem).
So you see, we are stuck with the second scenario of coexistence. And hatred is obviously not the answer. So we need to back off our hatred. But who will start?
Unfortunately for us, an Israeli hater is far more vicious by all shots and all standards because there is nothing more dangerous than hatred that is bred in a thriving, developed environment like the Israeli one (I mean, what more do you want?); whereas hatred in a harsh, sadistic environment (like the Arabic one) is only normal.
I have stated here a bunch of comparative statistics that I diligently ask you to review in the part addressed to “the haters”:http://tinyurl.com/cvkxcuk
In the Arab world, we don’t have the same tools to resort to when we have a conundrum or a problem to solve. We don’t have the same freedoms, the same hopes, the same defenses you have. We don’t vote our laws, we don’t vote our leaders, we don’t have job opportunities, we are not educated, our women suffer from gender inequalities, our governance is plagued with corruption and nepotism, and the world doesn’t grant us visas because other countries qualify us as “high security risks” at all their borders. The world, as well as you, cannot expect from us what should be expected from you.
We are doing our best to get better, starting with gaining freedoms and respect. Have you seen the recent surge of Arab spring? What do you think this is? Some masochistic dudes who like to get their eyeballs gouged, their nails pulled out and their bodies mutilated just for the fun of it? No. It is the Arab world’s gamble at freedom, something that you guys never have to gamble for anymore.
The bottom line is, we are not equal. And therefore, our blames are not equal. Our faults are not equal. And our mistakes are certainly not equal. Your responsibilities are bigger, and your stakes are higher; and as such, an Israeli hater should be made unacceptable and unjustifiable in your society.
So revoke that role. Acknowledge your incredible responsibility. And when you finally do that, I assure you less people will want to throw rockets on Israel, and righteous peace will finally ensue.
PS: This is my public page http://www.facebook.com/saraelyafipage
For your convenience, here are the above mentioned vitriol-infused articles:
1. Harvard graduate/McGill History Professor: http://blogs.jpost.com/content/harvards-humous-hullabaloo-palestinian-perversity-bullies-pc-appeasers
2. Harvard graduate/Cornell Law Professor: http://legalinsurrection.com/2012/11/harvard-bows-to-pressure-to-remove-arab-food-from-israeli-buffet/
3. Beautiful haters on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=336720303092379&set=a.172989996132078.35033.138533429577735&type=1
4. This is my favorite. American conservative blogger, recurrent guest on Fox & Friends. It is sad to see that a pretty woman like her feels the need to use such dirty language to make her point (check out her “Maa al salameh, kalbeh” at the very end):http://www.debbieschlussel.com/56245/dar-al-harvard-university-apologizes-to-arabs-for-israeli-buffet/