Academic journal article Arab Studies Quarterly

How Can I Ever Hope? in Memory of Clovis Maksoud

Academic journal article Arab Studies Quarterly

How Can I Ever Hope? in Memory of Clovis Maksoud

Article excerpt

My friendship with CIovís Maksoud goes back to November 1972 when I met him for the first time in Berkeley, California, at the conference of the Association of Arab-American University Graduates. At the time I was teaching Arabic language and literature to American graduate students at Monterey Institute of Foreign Studies. My students, who wished to invite Clovis Maksoud to our campus at a later date, were very much interested in attending the conference. I too wished to meet him and see again my Palestinian-Israeli friend, the poet Rashid Hussein, who wrote to me from New York City saying that he would be giving a talk at Berkeley and would love to see me. My students and I were not optimistic about inviting a speaker on the Palestinian Question to our campus at that time. The administration was strictly against any such move. But we were adamant in our pursuit not to have our academic freedom curtailed. The most amazing thing was that my students were politically and religiously diverse. Some of them were Republicans; others were Democrats, yet others did not belong to any party. They were Christians, Jews, or atheists. All of them were graduates from different states and working in different fields.

Although I met Clovis in 1972 for the first time in Berkeley, I already knew about him when I was growing up in Damascus, Syria. For me, he was one of the champions of the ideals of secular Arab unity. My students and I were very excited to meet him along with hundreds of academics from around the world. The American civil right attorney 'Abdeen Jabara was at the time the president of the Association of the Arab-American University Graduates in the USA. Political scientists, anthropologists, historians, lawyers, sociologists, economists, poets, and artists from around the world were all invited to participate in the sessions. Professor Andreas Papandreou, an economist who taught at the University of York in Canada before he became the prime minister of Greece, Clovis Maksoud, a former diplomat and the Chief Editor of the Lebanese newspaper Al-Nahar in Beirut, and many non-Zionist Jews from Israel were all there at Berkeley, California. On Saturday, November 11, 1972, Clovis gave a talk about the Palestinian Question without using any paper, or notes. He differentiated between terrorism and liberation movements and gave examples from Indian, Algerian, and Vietnamese revolutions. He defined the meaning of anti-Semitism and Zionism. In a society that encourages anti-Semitism, a Jew is not able to live in it. While Zionism, on the other hand, stresses the fact that non-Jews cannot, or rather are not allowed to live in a Zionist society. His thoughts were very organized and logical. He was followed by Paul Jacobs, a Jewish intellectual who had many relatives in Israel and was torn apart, for he did not know what was the best solution for the Arab-Israeli problems. He was against violence. The participants agreed, or disagreed among themselves. Then Professor Walid al-Khalidi, the political scientist, from the American University of Beirut stood up and dramatized the whole tragedy of the Palestinian people in his beautiful English, quoting Shakespeare and other poets, without ever clarifying his solution to the problem.

On Sunday, November 12, 1972, I was seated next to Clovis during a special panel entitled "The Arabs and the Jews beyond Zionism." I was listening to Eli Lobel, the Israeli soldier who said to us that the labor union of Israelis and Palestinians would eventually change the internal conditions in Israel and would lead, in the end, to the disintegration of the racist Zionist entity. The room resounded with applause. Lobel concluded by saying, "We are still a minority. But we exist like a thorn in Dayan's and Meir's eyes. I don't want you to give up hope. The future is for us and for you." His small face was aflame, and his blue eyes were glittering with a strange oath. But when he returned to his seat on the big platform, where Walid al-Khalidi, Abdullah al-Araoui, Norton Mezvinski, and Hisham Sharabi were also assembled, I saw Rashid Hussein with his large body and mournful face, dart to the microphone. …

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