Sunday, April 13, 2003

While I deeply disagree with Ajami on Israel and the Palestinians, he has shown a strange consistency on this matter since turning against the PLO two decades ago. The fact is he sees himself as an American and, therefore, not bound by the slogans imposed on Arab intellectuals. Saudi Arabia? Has Shatz forgotten that until September 11, being a Saudi apologist was a cottage industry in Washington? Or that the rampant anti-Saudi attitude in Washington was one adopted by Ajami's neo-con peers who are now in positions of power? Did Ajami, who is supposedly so bent on deferring to power, go along? Shatz admits the answer is no, criticizing Ajami, now, for remaining consistent on the Saudis. There is an explanation: the Saudis have paid him off. What is that French saying: "When you want to drown your dog, accuse him of having rabies."

We also learn that Ajami "has produced little scholarly work of value," (a phrase unwittingly explaining why Ajami is so relevant) whose book The Arab Predicament "did not offer a bold or original argument; like Isaiah Berlin's Russian Thinkers, it provided an interpretive survey--respectful even when critical--of other people's ideas." In a roundabout (and deniable) way that sounds suspiciously similar to what Christopher Hitchens wrote of Berlin, namely that "he never broke any original ground in the field of ideas. He was a skilled ventriloquist for other thinkers."

We also learn about Ajami: "His once-luminous writing, increasingly a blend of Naipaulean cliches about Muslim pathologies and Churchillian rhetoric about the burdens of empire, is saturated with hostility toward Sunni Arabs in general (save for pro-Western Gulf Arabs, toward whom he is notably indulgent), and to Palestinians in particular."

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