Amal Saad-Ghorayeb responds

    [In a follow-up to the exchange that I blogged here yesterday, Dr Amal Saad-Ghorayeb has written the response that follows. I will be happy to publish, in full, any further remarks that Dean Grant Hammond or any of his staff at the NATO Defense College (NDC) cares to submit. The subject of how, exactly, officials in key NATO structures like the NDC define NATO’s “mission” in the Israeli-Arab theater is an important one that citizens of all democracies– in Lebanon and elsewhere– should certainly be ready to discuss. Anyway, here is Saad-Ghorayeb’s contribution. ~HC]

by Amal Saad-Ghorayeb

Despite the very personal nature of Dean Grant Hammond’s
last e-mail (apparently sent to me by mistake), I had no intention of
dignifying his vulgar outburst with a reply. However, given the publication of
his response to Helena Cobban’s queries, I feel obligated to alert the reader
to the distortions of reality, inconsistencies, and omissions which
characterize his defensive tract, all of which can be readily discerned from
the—as yet unpublished– e-mail exchanges that took place between myself
and the NATO Defense College staff.

But more important than my efforts at
clarifying the episode, is my endeavor to underline its exact magnitude, lest
it appear a mere tit-for-tat exchange between myself and NDC
staff
.

The episode is nothing short of a
botched attempt to enlist me –on account of my “academic expertise [on Hizbullah] and reputation” to borrow Hammond’s words– to
deliver a lecture on the Lebanese resistance movement to an audience of Israeli
and other NATO officers and diplomats,  and then, in clear violation of
my country’s laws, to engage IDF officers and diplomats in back-channel talks,
in the context of the scheduled “Q&A” session. It is crucial to repeat here
that these Israeli guests were not private citizens but diplomats and IDF
officers, and that accordingly, I was invited to not merely engage in cultural
normalization with Israeli academics, but in security normalization with
Israeli officers. 

I will take as my starting point  Dr.
Hammond’s argument that Dr. Florence Gaub was
ignorant of Lebanon’s laws which ban interaction between Lebanese citizens and
Israeli military officers. This is an insult to the intelligence, particularly
when one considers Gaub’s earlier admission to me that : "We are not
under Lebanese law and invite academics in their private capacity, not as
government officials. It is for this reason that we have been able, in the
past, to invite scholars from very different backgrounds and to ensure frank
discussions
even among
Israelis and Arabs, and even among Israelis and Lebanese."
Gaub’s involvement in or observation of these back-channel
talks, 
presupposes
her familiarity with the laws that necessitate that
such meetings remain confidential and confined to academics rather than
government officials. Hammond’s comparison of my seemingly incredulous
ignorance of NATO’s partnership with the Mediterranean Dialogue with Gaub’s ignorance of Lebanon’s laws concerning Israel, is an absurd and irrelevant analogy. Moreover, the
fact that I conditioned my acceptance of the NDC’s invitation on the absence of
Israeli officers, suggests that I knew they would be present at my lecture.

Second,
Hammond’s saccharine platitudes on NDC’s respect for Lebanon’s laws and my
abidance by them are disingenuous to say the least.
Gaub’s assurance to me that NDC is “not under Lebanese law”
and as such, offers “a free academic environment under Chatham House rules,
meaning that nobody can be quoted from discussions taking place here,”
hardly  vindicates Hammond’s argument about NDC’s respect for Lebanese law.
Furthermore, Gaub’s attempt to persuade me to take
part in “frank and open discussions” with Israeli officers as other Arabs and
Lebanese have done before me after I
had made it clear to her that I could not give a lecture with Israeli guests
present, does not exactly corroborate Hammond’s claim  that
“We would not
expect her to break the laws of her nation.”

But it is Hammond’s own words which
most clearly betray his contempt for the rule of law in Lebanon. His insistence
that Florence had “done nothing wrong” in trying to convince me to commit a
crime bordering on treason says it all. Hammond’s depiction of my denunciation
of Gaub’s supercilious approach  as “unjust” and “vitriolic”, the
likes of which he has apparently “never encountered” before, is
intriguing.  That a hardened
military man with decades of experience under his sleeve, would respond in such
hysterical fashion to a non-threatening e-mail, written in an “academic”
–albeit “claptrap”–style by his own account, leaves one wondering
whether he has been isolated in his ivory tower for too long or is simply
acting out a subconscious fear of the recalcitrant native who refuses to play
the role of native-informant.

But to be fair, it bears mentioning here that NDC’s
agenda is not unique to the institution but is rooted in a wider NATO policy of
promoting security normalization between Israel and states such as Lebanon which do not have relations with it. This policy was
clearly articulated by NATO Secretary General, Jaap
de Hoop Scheffer in a speech that he delivered January
11, 2009, in a session in Tel Aviv jointly organized by the Tel Aviv-based
Institute for National Security Studies and the Atlantic Forum of Israel.  He talked enthusiastically there
about, “NATO’s
role as a political agenda-setter”,
and said that,“The [Mediterranean] Dialogue now offers us the opportunity to conduct open
and frank discussions on regional security, including with countries with which
Israel does not have diplomatic relations.”

As a citizen
who refuses to violate Lebanese laws which criminalize normalization with
Israel, I find it highly “offensive  and “disrespectful” of Gaub to dare suggest that I engage in off-the-record talks
with the Israeli military, knowing full well that neither her nor Hammond would
ever dare to encourage  citizens of
western countries, or Israel for that matter, to flout their country’s laws and
undermine its security by holding secret meetings with enemies of their state.
It was my indignation at the injustice inherent in such double-standards,
rather than my imputed “cultural sensitivities”, that prompted me to invoke the
charge of “crude neo-Orientalism.” In fact, that is
the least offensive term I could employ to describe this undignified treatment
of Lebanese scholars as potential informants and agents.

Gaub’s
allusion to other Arabs and Lebanese who have held “frank discussions” with
Israelis as a reference point for me, only confirms my observation that all
Arab scholars are expected to conform to the template of perfidious,
unprincipled opportunists, bereft of nationalist loyalties, who are all too
eager to jump on the Israeli bandwagon when approached by purportedly
prestigious western institutions such as NATO. If some Lebanese and Arab
scholars choose to betray their countries and relinquish their dignity by
engaging with Israeli military officers and diplomats, that is not sufficient
grounds for over generalizing that all Arabs are culturally predisposed to
surrender and 
treason
, and can be approached as such. 

It is in this
context that Hammond’s observation that “Dr.
Saad Ghorayeb appeared to
hold her invitation as her paramount concern and not an appreciation for the
circumstance of the College, Dr. Gaub or the NATO
Alliance in this matter,”

appears particularly ridiculous. In the first place, Hammond need only refer to
my e-mail exchanges with NDC staff to see that it took me a full 3 months to
conditionally accept their invitation—hardly the behavior of someone whose
paramount concern was her invitation. Second, my e-mails focus far more on
NDC’s disrespect for my country’s laws than Gaub’s
revocation of my invitation. Furthermore, it might interest Hammond to learn
that I was similarly “disinvited” from my position at the reputable Carnegie
Middle East Center for refusing to conform to their “standards and approaches”,
which necessitated that I
change my “way of thinking and writing” and
that required me to become a “different” kind of scholar .
As this example illustrates, I am but one example of many Arabs and Lebanese
who value their dignity and integrity far more than any association we could have
with supposedly prestigious western institutions that require us to relinquish
them.

In closing, while I appreciate Hammond’s apology for accidentally sending me that memorable mail, I was far less insulted by the manner in which he attempted to demean me as an academic, than his endorsement of Gaub’s complete disrespect for Lebanon’s sovereignty by asserting that she had not committed any mistake. If NATO and its member states are as genuinely concerned with Lebanon’s “state-building” process and respect for the “rule of law” as they claim to be, I suggest that they respect Lebanon’s sovereignty by discontinuing their campaign of promoting normalization with Israel. As the Dean of Nato’s Defense College, I suggest that Professor Grant Hammond and his faculty do the same. 

10 thoughts on “Amal Saad-Ghorayeb responds

  1. Joe in Australia

    You make peace with your enemies, not your friends. What a shame that Dr Amal Saad-Ghorayeb could not put his animosity aside even to the extent of delivering a lecture in front of a room containing a few Israelis.

  2. Gee

    You compromise, infiltrate and false flag your enemies, AND your friends (if spying on ally America is a model).
    What a shame that racists with delusions of godly grandeur could not put their arrogance and laughable ‘entitlement’ aside even to the extent of not delivering a lecture to a ‘native’ with integrity, dignity and intelligence who refuses to be seduced into treason by a few Israelis.
    If only we had a few dozen like her in the White House or Congress. Think what a different world it would be.

  3. Gee

    You compromise, infiltrate and false flag your enemies, AND your friends (if spying on ally America is a model).
    What a shame that racists with delusions of godly grandeur could not put their arrogance and laughable ‘entitlement’ aside even to the extent of not delivering a lecture to a ‘native’ with integrity, dignity and intelligence who refuses to be seduced into treason by a few Israelis under false pretenses.
    If only we had a few dozen like her in the White House or Congress. Think what a different world it would be.

  4. Laleh

    I am not certain why Saad-Ghorayeb would have expected otherwise. Indeed, why would she want to talk to NATO in the first place, Israel or no Israel?

  5. Eurosabra

    She wanted the NDC to usher the Israelis out of her lecture so that she could be special and untainted, and quite frankly, since she has written that Israel intends genocide in Lebanon, her appearance, however problematic, would generate debate. I doubt she has any particular expertise on Hezbollah that could be useful to Israel’s countering the organization’s military threat, and I suspect that the NDC was hoping-against-hope to confront the Israelis with a Lebanese scholar whose take on Hezbollah’s social welfare system would rattle their preconceptions and humanize the Lebanese Shia who form Hezbollah’s constituency. Certainly her role as a social historian hints at this being the case, since the MD has been deluged with security experts of all types in 2007-9 and she stands out when compared to the previous invitees.

  6. Franklin Lamb

    It appears that Ms. Saad-Ghorayeb is not familiar with the relevant Lebanese law, its trauvaux preparatorie, on its past or current application.
    The focus of the law, and its reason, is fear of spying, not delivering a lecture.
    Hundreds of Lebanese have delivered lectures with Israelis in the audience without fear of problems with the Lebanese govenment, such as it is.
    By delivering a lecture at Rome’s Nato College Ms. Saad was in no way subject to prosecution.
    She would not have been forced into any back channels unless following her remarks she freely chose to be.
    Unfortunately with her choice of language and personal attacks on her hosts she appears to elevate ‘know nothingism’ and hysteria.
    This whole episode undermines academic freedom and freedom of expression. So much for open dialogue and a much needed change in the level of discourse..

  7. Franklin Lamb

    It appears that Ms. Saad-Ghorayeb is not familiar with the relevant Lebanese law, its trauvaux preparatorie, on its past or current application.
    The focus of the law, and its reason, is fear of spying, not delivering a lecture.
    Hundreds of Lebanese have delivered lectures with Israelis in the audience without fear of problems with the Lebanese government, such as it is.
    By delivering a lecture at Rome’s Nato College Ms. Saad was in no way subject to prosecution.
    She would not have been forced into any back channels unless following her remarks she freely chose to be.
    Unfortunately with her choice of language and personal attacks on her hosts she appears to elevate ‘know nothingism’ and hysteria.
    This whole episode undermines academic freedom and freedom of expression. So much for open dialogue and a much needed change in the level of discourse..

  8. Franklin Lamb

    It appears that Ms. Saad-Ghorayeb is not familiar with the relevant Lebanese law, its trauvaux preparatoire, on its past or current application.
    The focus of the law, and its reason, is fear of spying, not delivering a lecture.
    Hundreds of Lebanese have delivered lectures with Israelis in the audience without fear of problems with the Lebanese govenment, such as it is.
    By delivering a lecture at Rome’s Nato College Ms. Saad was in no way subject to prosecution.
    She would not have been forced into any back channels unless following her remarks she freely chose to be.
    Unfortunately with her choice of language and personal attacks on her hosts she appears to elevate ‘know nothingism’ and hysteria.
    This whole episode undermines academic freedom and freedom of expression. So much for open dialogue and a much needed change in the level of discourse..

  9. Franklin

    seems your website it repeating oddly…….
    In addition, Ms. Saad-Ghorayeb should be commended for refusing the ‘normalization’ that is being pushed in academia and elsewhere on those who do not accept Israel’s illegal and brutal occupation of Palestine.
    On further thought, the point is not whether Dr. Saad-Ghorayeb would be prosecuted under Lebanese law, given her well deserved status as perhaps the preeminent academic authority on the subject of the Lebanese Resistance, I doubt she would be. Rather, her stance is a Profile in Courage for the reason that she sets a good example for all of us to follow by rejecting an accommodation offered by the Nato College which appears to be part of the current US-Israel project to pressure the international community into accepting Israel, whereas, in reality, the growing trend is in the opposite direction. More academics, inside and outside Lebanon, should follow her lead and reject efforts to ‘normalize’ with the colonial enterprise that is increasingly becoming an international pariah.

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