Lunch and more with Todd Babiak

Todd Babiak took a breath and held his ground. A young man, a protester, impassioned and mostly articulate, aimed a misquote at Babiak and waited for his response. He accused Todd Babiak of saying that the recent Israel Apartheid Week was creepy, when in fact T.B. said the absence of another point of view was creepy…

Many of these events sound fascinating. At the same time, in the absence of any curiosity about the Israeli point of view, they’re also profoundly creepy.

I felt for the protester, understood his point of view, and I respected Todd Babiak’s handling of the interjection. He was gracious and open to discussion.

We were there for the library (EPL) "writer’s brown bag lunch." Todd Babiak, a well known and truly gifted novelist and journalist, was there to do a reading and discuss writing. But the charge by the young man, who wasn’t there because he was curious about literature’s creative process, injected some adrenaline into the event.

tbabiak Babiak’s article pivots on the the idea that the people at the Palestine Solidarity Network should have invited an Israeli point of view at the Apartheid week events.

But the Israeli view has not been ignored over the years. I grew up, as did most people around me, fully versed in the "Jewish plight" and the Israeli point of view. And it has only been in the last few years where some understanding and consideration for an occupied Palestine has surfaced. On balance, I believe there is still greater ignorance of Palestine’s situation than Israel’s.

This was Edmonton’s first Israeli Apartheid week and I believe the U of A’s hosting of it contributed toward greater understanding, without any hyperbolic hangover. But I also agree that room should be made for a forum where both sides can come together in open discussion.

There is of course a violent and intransigent streak that runs through both sides of this sad human epic. From what I could see Apartheid Week’s aim was a kind of persuasive education–naturally biased, but everyone knows that going in. It was not, as Shoshana Szlachter, director of the western region of B’nai Brith, in Edmonton, says, "… very close to that line of promoting hate."

So yes, here’s to open forums in the future. In the mean time for a reasonably rounded history of the conflict, written with an obvious desire for prevailing peace, consider Jimmy Carter’s new book (2009), We Can Have Peace in the Holy Land: A Plan That Will Work. While it’s an overly optimistic work that deals only with the political landscape, it still introduces the many moderate voices in Israel that want to end the occupation and find a two state solution. As well, the book sketches Hamas as not simply a one dimensional violent regime. Hamas, according to Carter, is ready to recognize Israel under the pre 1967 borders, and is,

willing to accept any peace agreement negotiated between Abu Mazen and the Israelis if the agreement was submitted to the Palestinians in a referendum and if the Palestinians approved it, or if there was a unity government that could approve.

With Carter, it might be time to consider Hamas as a necessary part of any negotiated peace.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *