It’s Time to Stop Whitewashing Tarek Loubani and John Greyson
A good deal of media heat but little light has recently been generated over the arrest and imprisonment in a Cairo jail of Dr. Tarek Loubani and filmmaker John Greyson, both university professors, on August 16.
Their associates in both the academic and film communities have called for the men’s immediate release, with author and script writer Michael Ondaatje, for example, speaking at the Toronto International Film Festival last week about artists having “a special responsibility to protest when human rights are violated.” Canadian filmmaker Sarah Polley told how Greyson had “inspired and mentored” so many young filmmakers. A petition demanding their freedom has been signed by over 100,000 people.
What has been missing from all of the coverage, however, is an accurate account of the political motivations of the men, including their support for the destruction of Israel and possible links to the terrorist entity Hamas.
Reports on the two men have been coy about their reason for travelling to Gaza. Loubani, we learn in a recent article in the once-respectable National Post, was going to teach medical procedures at the Al Shifa Hospital while Grayson “was planning to film him there.”
“They were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time,” Cecilia Greyson, John’s sister, is quoted as saying. She has also claimed that their detention “is completely arbitrary.” A Global news article noted that both “have a history of supporting human rights in Gaza.”
What is not mentioned in these sanitized accounts is that Loubani has been a long-time member of the International Solidarity Movement, a radical pro-Palestinian activist group with ties to Hamas and Islamic Jihad. The ISM, founded in 2001, calls itself a peace group but has avowed the necessity of violence and stated its belief that Israel is “an illegal entity that should not exist.” Loubani was arrested a decade ago for entering a military area in the West Bank and interfering with the work of Israeli soldiers, a key tactic of the ISM and precisely what got American Rachel Corrie (also an ISM member) accidentally killed by an Israeli bulldozer in 2003.
And what kind of film was Greyson planning to make? Greyson’s rabid anti-Semitism is barely hinted at in the Post article, which notes only that in 2009 he withdrew a documentary film from the Toronto International Film Festival because of the festival’s city-to-city link that year with Tel Aviv. According to the Post’s bland account, he had “strongly held views” about Israel.
That’s one way of putting it. Greyson is a gay man who—like an increasing number of radical gay activists—wishes to weaken and imperil the one country in the Middle East where gay men can live without fear. In 2011, he made a film, “Green Laser,” in support of Queers Against Israeli Apartheid, the scurrilous protest group that claims a (false) parallel between the treatment of blacks in South Africa under Apartheid and the treatment of Arabs in Israel—false because while South African blacks were denied political rights, Arabs in Israel have all the rights and privileges of Israeli citizens.
Greyson, however, is committed to the position that Israel, a liberal democracy with an exemplary record on human rights for minorities and women, should be singled out amidst its brutal and terrorist-supporting neighbors for international condemnation and sanctions.
It follows that Greyson promotes the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, designed to isolate Israel politically and economically, and ultimately to cripple its economy and render it incapable of defending itself against the Gazan rockets that rain upon its schools and homes. He is also a two-time volunteer for the Gaza flotilla, a so-called humanitarian mission that is actually a campaign to delegitimize the Jewish state.
Greyson’s recent films are postmodern, relying on pop culture images and music rather than coherent narrative or reasoned discussion to create political emotion. Given his antipathy to Israel, there is little doubt about what kind of film he was intending to make in Gaza: one that would reinforce the now-dominant story of Palestinian innocence and Israeli perfidy.
Relevant facts would need to be omitted, including the Israeli practice of warning civilians about planned military strikes, and the many concessions, prisoner releases, territorial withdrawals and peace offerings that Israel has made in order to negotiate an end to hostilities. On the Palestinian side, he would need to maintain silence about the thousands of rocket attacks, the suicide bombings, the Palestinians’ death-glorifying culture, their insistence that Israel must be completely eliminated, and their crude, virulent anti-Semitism.
It is possible that Greyson and Loubani were simply “in the wrong place at the wrong time,” and all reasonable people must hope for their humane treatment. But let us not fool ourselves about their dubious commitments and associations, which deserve a full discussion.