You mentioned Palestinians going to the Communist University in Moscow? Do you have any stories about any of them?
Oh yeah, my favorite of them was Muhammad Najati Sidqi. He grew up traveling the Arab world, but after the British took control of Palestine, he got a job in the Department of Posts and Telegraphs and the Jews there introduced him to communism, so he went to the KUTV in Moscow. While he was there - this is probably my favorite part of his life - he corresponded personally with Stalin, Bukharin, and Khalid Bakdash (a Kurdish communist who became the General Secretary of the Syrian Communist Party, known as the “dean of Arab communism”), met Mao Tse Tsung and future Prime Minister of India Jawaharlal Nehru, and fell in love with a Ukrainian communist and married her.
He returned to Palestine with her in 1928 and became a leader in the PKP. He ran the Arab East (the Comintern’s Arabic newspaper) from Paris for a couple years while dodging a British crackdown on the PKP, and then spent a year in Uzbekistan studying “the national problem under socialism.” After that he was one (1) of four (4) Palestinian Arabs to fight on the Republican side during the Spanish Civil War. (He got blacklisted by the Palestinian national movement for this, especially in the newspaper Filastin, because the Palestinian nationalists backed the Francoist side, mostly to spite Britain and France and in solidarity with the Moroccan Army of Africa that fought alongside Franco.) While there, under a Moroccan alias, he wrote for the newspaper Mundo Obrero, trying to convince Moroccans to desert Franco, and also tried to convince the Spanish communists to organize an anti-colonial revolt in Morocco, but they didn’t want to work with “beastly savage” Moroccans.
He left thereafter, writing a polemic on the incompatibility of Islam and Nazism called al-Taqālid al-islāmiyya wa-l-mabādiʾ al-nāziyya: hal tattafiqān?
(The Islamic Traditions and the Nazi Principles: Can They Agree?)
to combat the Nazi-sympathetic faction of the Palestinian national movement around Hajj al-Husseini. Because he cited the Quran and other Islamic texts, he was purged from the party in 1940 for lack of secularism, and surprisingly for a communist in the Middle East, he lived out the rest of his life peacefully in Cyprus, Greece, and Lebanon, his daughter becoming a well-known doctor in the Soviet Union.
Edward Said in an interview with Timothy Appleby (1986) on the question "Can an Arab & Jewish state coexist?"
Why don't you, once and for all, renounce terror?
We're not in a position to renounce anything that confirms our status as essentially terrorists, which is what the Israelis have since the middle 1970s been trying to convince the world of. That all Palestinian acts of resistance are acts of terror. It's blatant hypocrisy, it's a lie, from a state that commands its bombers from a height of 10,000 feet to bomb refugee camps.
Nonetheless, I'm telling you about the image. Images are formed by the media, and you know as well as I do that you're not interested in covering Al Fajr [an Arab newspaper published in Jerusalem], but you do cover random outrages by individuals who attempt to blow up a bus in Israel. Have you ever actually done a body count? Have you? Have you any idea of the disparity between Israelis killed and Palestinians killed? I mean, we're talking hundreds to one...
Why do you think you have such a hard time convincing anybody of this?
Because we are a non-Western people from a civilization that has always been in conflict with the West. The world of Islam has always been a historical competitor, and it has never capitulated. So the one thing people don't understand is, why do you Palestinians whimper? Why don't you go away? Forget it. But we don't.
Maybe time is running out.
They said that five years ago [in 1981] -- the midnight hour. The fact is, every Israeli realizes they have no military option against us. What are they going to do? Kill everybody? So some of us say, WE FIGHT ON. And we keep saying, We're going to live together with you. That no matter what they do, we're a shadow.
It seems quite clear the Israelis are not going to give up...
It was very clear in Algeria. And they fought for what? 130 years? Then they gave up... [T]hey said that about the British in Kenya. Who could have imagined that after 300 years of colonization in India they would have left? They come and they go.
I Googled My Mother’s Maiden Name and Discovered My Family’s Violent Secret
I blame Who Do You Think You Are? Before that show existed, I was perfectly content not knowing a damn thing about my family history. But then Jim Parsons found out he was related to a famous French architect who served Louis XIV and Sarah Jessica Parker found out one of her ancestors was tried as a witch in Salem, and then suddenly I was like, “OMIGOD I BETCHA I’M RELATED TO CLEOPATRA OR SOMETHING.”
I thought the most logical place to start was with my great-grandfather, a man who had died 20 years before I was born. His name was Michael Zarbatany and he emigrated to Montreal from Damascus in 1906. In Syria he had sold shirts on the market, but in Montreal, he was a different man altogether. He started the first Arabic newspaper in Canada, called Ash-Shehab ("The Brilliant Star”), and also founded St. Nicholas Antiochian Orthodox Church, which still exists to this day on Rue de Castelnau in Montreal. So last month, I visited the church, which I hadn’t seen since I was baptized. I spoke to the current priest, and also to members of the congregation, but no one could tell me anything I didn’t already know. Yes, he was a good man, and a kind man, and an honest man, and blah blah fucking blah. What a horribly pedantic episode of Who Do You Think You Are? this would be.
Arab newspapers from around the world have drawn their own satirical cartoons condemning the terrorist attacks on Charlie Hebdo. It’s important to remember that the vast majority of the Muslim community are peaceful, intelligent, caring people just like the rest of us. They are hurting just like us, but their cries are drowned out under the terrible actions of these extremist radicals. No matter the religion, what most of us want is not to spread hatred, but peace.
Young reporters sometimes come to me for advice about working in the Middle East. In years past, I would tell them that this was an excellent idea: save some money, go learn Arabic, be a newspaper stringer, grab for the big stories, and you’ll have an interesting life. Steven Sotloff was one of those who sought my advice. His Middle East career was already under way (he was living in Israel at the time), and I prefer to think that he could not have been dissuaded.
But I’m capable of learning, and my advice now is to go somewhere else.