The usually excellent Issandr El Amrnani lets himself down on the admirable Arabist blog, podcast etc site. He picks up on an item in the Israeli daily Haaretz about restoring Arab translations of the verdicts of military courts in the West Bank. Arabic is an official state language along with Hebrew in the state of Israel, and it would seem rather obvious that Arabic translations of all court proceedings affecting the Arab majority (expanding Israeli settlement notwithstanding) in areas of the West Bank of the River Jordan should be available. The item is not signed by El Ammani but the site is mostly his work, so I think I can assume he wrote the item in question.
El Ammani briefly refers to this with a bit of sarcasm thrown in, all very understandable. I could say particularly understandable given that El Ammani is an Arab, but you don’t need to be an Arab to see the injustice and that the Israeli Defence Forces has done no more than reverse a grossly unjust practice.
The Arabist, in all its part including the podcast which is really good and not as regular as I’d like it to be, is very balanced, moderate and objective. It reflects the views of secular left (personally I’m a secular but non-leftist Brit, living in Istanbul) Arabs in Egypt, and like minded foreign residents, in a well informed moderate manner which could only give offence to those on some extreme point of some political spectrum. There is certainly no ranting about Israel, just thoughtful comments about its relations with the Arab world.
Unfortunately El Ammani undermines his reasonable point in that post, by referring to the ‘banality of evil’, a phrase the German-American Jewish political theorist Hannah Arendt used to refer to Nazi evil in the person of Adolf Eichmann, a major architect of the Holocaust. Her most popular book Eichmann in Jerusalem is subtitled The Banality of Evil, because she considered Eichmann to be an empty conformist who acted out of respect for authority rather than because of any inner evil. Arendt was not much of a Zionist, Eichmann in Jerusalem was very unpopular wit the most aggressive Zionists, and I doubt she would have been greatly offended. Nevertheless it is bizarrely inappropriate for the generally reasonable El Ammani to compare Israeli military administration in the West Bank since 1967, inherently unjust though it is, with the evil of the Nazi Holocaust. El Ammani does not sound like a political theorist to me, and possibly just does not know where the phrase ‘banality of evil’ originates. Whether or not he was conscious of this, I hope he realises he made a mistake and does not make it again.
I have some misgivings about putting this on my blog and possibly putting people off what is a really good, well informed, humorous and politically tolerant website on Egypt and the Arab world. I was just going to leave a comment on the site, but the comment form does invite commentators to comment on their own blog and leave a link. So that’s what I’ve done. If you don’t follow the Arabist, please do, and if Issandr El Ammani does happen to read this, I hope he does not spoil a good thing in this way in future.