BANDUNG & THE JEWISH STATE



Another blow had come with Israel's exclusion from the Asian-African Conference in Bandung, Indonesia, in 1955. That April, in response to the slow pace of decolonization and the failure of the United Nations to admit new members since 1950, delegates from twenty-nine countries in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East convened in Indonesia to demand "respect for the[ir] sovereignty" in the face of mounting US aspirations to global hegemony. Among other objectives, they pressed for the end of "racialism" and "colonialism in all its manifestations." In the early 1950s, especially after the 1952 Free Officers coup that brought Gamal Abdel Nasser to power in Egypt, Israel had worked hard—and largely in vain—to establish formal diplomatic ties with India and other emerging states in Southeast Asia. To compensate for the embargo of the Arab League, the Jewish state sought to build international commercial networks and to combat its image as a foreign implant and "seedbed of imperialism." Of great concern was the prospect that leaders of the new Asian states, inhabited by the largest Muslim communities in the world, would seek common cause with the Arab world in its support for Palestinian self-determination.  
In the months leading up to Bandung, Israeli diplomats had tried desperately to secure an invitation to the conference. Behind the scenes, they worked with the Burmese and other delegates with whom they enjoyed informal ties to prevent the subject from being raised, much less inserted into a discussion about imperialism or racial discrimination. But the participation of the Jewish state was a nonstarter. The organizing Columbo powers of South Asia sought Arab support in opposing American and British intervention in Korea and Taiwan, respectively, and Nasser made it clear that Arab states would boycott the conference if Israel attended.    
The diplomatic frenzy preceding Bandung notwithstanding, pressure from the Burmese and Indian delegations forced the attending Arab member states to make a meaningful concession in the conference's final communique. Along with disputes over Yemen and West Irian (also known as Papua), the resolution on Palestine appeared in a section entitled "Other Problems" detached from the sections on "Human Rights and Self-Determination" and "Problems of Dependent Peoples," which raised the cases of northern and southern Africa. Without mentioning the words colonialism, racialism, or self-determination, the resolution merely expressed the conference's "support of the rights of the Arab people of Palestine and called for the implementation of the United Nations resolutions on Palestine and the achievement of a peaceful settlement of the Palestine question."      
Bandung put Israeli leaders in an uncomfortable position. For domestic reasons, Nasser had insisted on keeping the resolution oblique. It was, however, undeniable that the Egyptian president was offering to sign a peace treaty if Israel would agree to repatriate a substantial number of Palestinian refugees and relinquish its territorial conquests beyond the 1947 borders. Given Jerusalem's maximalist stance on these questions over the previous seven years, it came as no surprise that it received the Palestine resolution as a negation of "the rights of the Jewish people." Israel's insistence on its territorial integrity and its right, as a UN member, to refuse outside interference hardly turned it into a pariah state. Nonetheless, the Bandung resolution was important because it marked the first time Israel had to reject publicly a peace offer from the most powerful leader in the Arab world on terms previously endorsed by the international community and the Yishuv itself.    
 
— Shira Robinson, Citizen Strangers: Palestinians and the Birth of Israel's Liberal Settler State (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2013) p. 157-158. 

PALESTINE / LOS ANGELES

http://www.alexodeh.org/

I. THE JDL ATTACKS


A time bomb exploded at the Lebanese consulate in an office building here Thursday, less than eight minutes after a man discovered the device and ran through the halls of the building yelling for people to get out.  
The explosion tore a 3-by-4 foot hole in the hallway wall of the consulate on the seventh floor of the 12-story Allstate Title Building on Hollywood blvd. It shattered glass panels fronting other offices on the floor and ripped out hall light fixtures. No one was hurt.
Wadih N. Dib, Lebanese consul general in Los Angeles, was found seated amid piles of debris in the wrecked consulate after the blast, stunned but unhurt.
"Who would do this?" he asked.  
— "Lebanese Consulate Bombed In Hollywood." Los Angeles Times (June 2, 1972)  

Five members of the Jewish Defense League, including its West Coast coordinator, were under arrest here today on charges of bombing the Hollywood home of a Palestinian immigrant. The pipe bomb blast early Wednesday morning damaged the apartment of Mohammed Shaath, 32, and flying debris narrowly missed Mrs. Shaath and their two infant children. Shaath was not at at the time. Detectives said Shaath recently appeared in a television debate with Irving Rubin, 27, the JDL coordinator.  
[. . .] 
Shortly after the explosion, an anonymous caller told a news service office by telephone that "I have just bombed an Arab house in Hollywood in revenge for the killing of Israeli athletes in Munich. This must not be allowed to happen again. Never again."
The arrests took place a week after JDl members had demonstated peacefully in front of the Lebanese consul here, in protest against the Munich murders. Police permitted the demonstraters to carry unloaded riles. Rubin told reporters then that "Jews will seek Arab blood" but carefully avoided any suggestions that JDL members would do so.  
— "5 Jdlers Arrested on Charges of Bombing Palestinian's Home." Jewish Telegraphic Agency (September 17, 1972)   

Two people were arrested early Thursday in connection with a bomb blast at a Beverly Hills theater, where British actress Vanessa Redgrave's film, "The Palestinian," was scheduled to be shown tonight. 
[. . .] 
Contacted in London about the bombing, Miss Redgrave told The Times, "I regret the incidents which have taken place concerning my documentary film, 'The Palestinians.' But this has not been my making. 
"The film was made for serious-minded audiences who judge for themselves the truth about the Palestinian struggle under the leadership of the PLO (Palestinian Liberation Organization." 
— "Two Suspects in Blast at Theater Arrested." Los Angeles Times (June 16, 1978)  

On the morning of Oct. 11, 1985 Alex Odeh made his way to his Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee office in Santa Ana, California. Odeh was likely tired as he climbed to the second-story office — he had been up past midnight the night before, appearing on a late-night talk show where he condemned the killing days earlier of Leon Klinghoffer, a 69-year old Jewish New Yorker shot and dumped into the Mediterranean by Palestinian gunmen aboard the Achille Lauro cruis ship. On the show, Odeh had also repeated his oft-stated belief that peace and cooperation between Palestinians and Israelis was not only necessary, it was possible.  
The group's West Coast coordinator, Alex had a busy day in front of him. He was to speak that evening at Friday prayer services at Congregation B'Nai Tzedek, a synagogue in Fountain Valley.  
He wouldn't make it. Around 9 a.m. Odeh unlocked the door to the 17th Street office, triggering a powerful pipe bomb that ripped through his face and chest. (The blast also blew out office windows, injuring seven passersby on the street below.) According to his brother Sami — who still lives in Orange, California —Alex also inhaled enough hot blast chemicals to cook his lungs from the inside. 
— "Twenty years later, still no charges in Alex Odeh assassination." The Electronic Intifada (December 6, 2006) 


II. THE INS ATTACKS 



The Los Angeles Eight: front row from left, Michel Ibrahim Shihadeh, Khader Musa Hamide, Julie Nuangugi Mungai, Bashar Amer, and back row, Ayam Mustafa Obeid, Aiad Khaled Barakat, Naim Nadim Sharif, Amjad Mustafa Obeid.
It was the West Coast, not the West Bank, but for many Palestinians, the unfolding dragnet scenario had an all-too-familiar ring.  
Shortly after dawn on the morning of January 26, agents of the FBI, the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) and local police arrested eight Palestinians and the Kenyan-born wife of one of them.  
"War on Terrorism Hits L.A.," a banner headline in the Herald-Examiner proclaimed. And the nine were treated like international criminals of the worst order. Shackles on their arms, legs and waist, they were denied food and water for nine hours, placed in cells with lights glaring round the clock and not allowed to shower. Two days later they were led — still shackled — before and immigration judge (and the media) for their initial hearing on charges of disturbing subversive literature.  
[. . .] 
"This is old fashioned Arab-bashing," said ACLU's Rosenbaum. "And I think there are officials in the government who are using INS as it has historically been used — as a henchman of the government. They want to stop Arab thought, Arab belief, Arab discussion of issues in this country. What [this case] said to Arabs in this country is 'shut up...shut up or get out of here, you're not to be part of the American dialogue.' I think the US government for the first time thinks it has a Palestinian policy by moving against these young people." 
— Judith Gabriel, "Palestinians Arrested in Los Angeles Witch-Hunt." Middle East Report (March/April 1987)  

Ten years after their January 1987 arrest, the Los Angeles Eight are still on trial. While the courts continue to debate the case, the seven Palestinians and one Kenyan continue to face speration from the famalies and homelands and the prospect of forced deportation. Initialyy under the McCarthy-era McCarran-Walter Act — provisions not used since the anti-Communist attacks of the 1950s — the eight were accused of being members of, or supporting, an orginization that advocated "world communism — specificaally the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), one of the constituent organizations of the PLO. The Immigration and Naturalizaion Service (INS) quickly dropped the political charges against the six non-US residents whom it then accused to technical visa violations, and charged the two permanent US residents with associating with an organization (the PFLP) that advocates the destruction of property.  
— Phyllis Bennis, "Ten Years of the Los Angeles Eight Deportation Case." Middle East Report (Spring 1997)  

In the eighteen years since the arrests, the case has taken many twists and turns, including an evidentiary hearing lasting six weeks over the course of two and one half years, four trips to the appeals court, and review by the Supreme Court. It produced landmark court rulings upholding the First Amendment rights of noncitizens and rejecting the government's attempts to target political activity, only to see them reversed by the Supreme Court. Other rulings limiting the discretion of the government to use secret evidence in the name of national security still stand. Through it all, the government never showed or even alleged that the LA 8 were engaged in any terrorist activity or supported any unlawful activities of the PFLP. The eight were never charged with a crime, or under any of the deportation provisions addressing actual criminal conduct or conduct threatening national security.  
— David Cole & James X. Dempsey, Terrorism and the Constitution (2006)  

Some good news, for a change: The excruciating ordeal of the Los Angeles Eight is finally over. On October 30, federal prosecutors gave up on their efforts to deport Khader Hamide and Michel Shehadeh, the last of the seven Palestinians and one Kenyan arrested in 1987 on patently silly anti-terrorism charges  whose cases remained before the courts. 
The tale of the LA Eight is an odoriferous stew of anti-Arab and immigrant bashing racism, FBI machismo, Justice department malevolence and laws aimed at criminalizing political thought.  
— "From the Editors." Middle East Report (Winter 2007) 

PALESTINIANS (& THE U.S.A)

0. 
The quintessential Palestinian experience, which illustrates some of the most basic issues raised by Palestinian identity, takes place at a border, an airport, a checkpoint: in short, at any one of those many modern barriers where identities are checked and verified. What happens to Palestinians at these crossing points brings home to them how much they share in common as a people. For it is at these borders and barriers that the six million Palestinians are singled out for "special treatment," and are forcefully reminded of their identity: of who they are, and of why they are different from others. 

— Rashid Khalidi, Palestinian Identity: The Construction of Modern National Consciousness (New York: Columbia University Press, 1997). 


Despite my American credentials, I was not welcomed with open arms by the Jewish and Democratic State


1.

[Khalil Sakakini] summed up his attitude towards New York and the US in a letter sent to Sultana in July of 1908:

Sultana my love,

I left Rumfold Falls after spending one month working [in the paper mill]. It felt like a century. I came to Boston and was met by Mikhael Sayegh and your cousin Bandeli. Mikhael works for half a day and hardly makes 3/4 of a riyal [dollar]. Your cousin goes out everyday to sell [carpets] but hardly makes enough money to cover his travel expenses. I doubt he will make it even if he spent his whole life in this country. I nearly urged him to return home [to Palestine] except that I do not wish to interfere in what is not my business.

In the evening I bade them farewell…Mikhael's wife was about to deliver her baby. I took the train for about an hour [to Providence?] then I took the boat to New York. Everyone I encounter presses me to go back home, for this country is not for the likes of me. Except that every time I am about to resolve the matter I remember my oath to you to make every effort to make something of myself here. I would then come back and bring you and Melia to visit America. The truth my love is that America is worth seeing, but is not fit to be a homeland [la taslah an takun watanan] for us, for it is a nation of toil, and there is no joy in it. I have one hope left, and that is to go back and try my luck back home. I trust conditions are better now that the Sultan has ratified the constitution.

Sakakini's stay in Brooklyn was dominated by his relationship to Farah Anton, the editor of the Syrian exile journal, al-Jam'ia, and translation work he did for Columbia University Orientalist scholar, Professor Richard Gottheil. He made extra money on the side by teaching Arabic to American students (mostly from Columbia) and the wives and daughters of Arab shopkeepers and merchants, who were illiterate in their mother tongue. For Anton he edited and wrote articles, and proofread the galleys. As he gained confidence, he also became engaged in polemics on behalf of Anton against his conservative opponents. 

Sakakini belonged to the first wave of Arab immigration to America, which began in the 1870s and was halted by the radical antianarchist phobias of the 1920s.

— Salim Tamari, "A Miserable Year in Brooklyn: Khalil Sakakini in America, 1907-1908," The Jerusalem Quarterly, (February 2003) 



2.

In the spring of 1951 I was expelled from Victoria College, thrown out for being a troublemaker, which meant that I was more visible and more easily caught than the other boys in the daily skirmishes between Mr Griffith, Mr Hill, Mr Lowe, Mr Brown, Mr Maundrell, Mr Gatley and all the other British teachers, on the one hand, and us, the boys of the school, on the other. We were all subliminally aware, too, that the old Arab order was crumbling: Palestine had fallen, Egypt was tottering under the massive corruption of King Farouk and his court (the revolution that brought Gamal Abdel Nasser and his Free Officers to power was to occur in July 1952), Syria was undergoing a dizzying series of military coups, Iran, whose Shah was at the time married to Farouk’s sister, had its first big crisis in 1951, and so on. The prospects for deracinated people like us were so uncertain that my father decided it would be best to send me as far away as possible – in effect, to an austere, puritanical school in the north-western corner of Massachusetts.
The day in early September 1951 when my mother and father deposited me at the gates of that school and then immediately left for the Middle East was probably the most miserable of my life. Not only was the atmosphere of the school rigid and explicitly moralistic, but I seemed to be the only boy there who was not a native-born American, who did not speak with the required accent, and had not grown up with baseball, basketball and football. For the first time ever I was deprived of the linguistic environment I had depended on as an alternative to the hostile attentions of Anglo-Saxons whose language was not mine, and who made no bones about my belonging to an inferior, or somehow disapproved race. Anyone who has lived through the quotidian obstacles of colonial routine will know what I am talking about. One of the first things I did was to look up a teacher of Egyptian origin whose name had been given to me by a family friend in Cairo. ‘Talk to Ned,’ our friend said, ‘and he’ll instantly make you feel at home.’ On a bright Saturday afternoon I trudged over to Ned’s house, introduced myself to the wiry, dark man who was also the tennis coach, and told him that Freddie Maalouf in Cairo had asked me to look him up. ‘Oh yes,’ the tennis coach said rather frostily, ‘Freddie.’ I immediately switched to Arabic, but Ned put up his hand to interrupt me. ‘No, brother, no Arabic here. I left all that behind when I came to America.’ And that was the end of that.
— Edward W. Said, "Between Worlds," London Review of Books, V. 20 N. 9 (7 May 1998).  

Edward Wadie Said (1935-2003)

3.

Palestinian-American literature emerges from the context of personal and  political displacement that has characterized Palestinian experience over the last half century. A relatively recent body of literature, offering an unprecedented charting of Palestinian experience in a language and diction accessible to U.S. readers, Palestinian-American writing is informed by the longing to return to the original Palestinian homeland, and by the historical, political, and military events that have made such return impossible. It is also informed by other layers of displacement and exile, whether cultural, personal, or gendered. Because Palestinian-Americans, like other Palestinians, are forbidden to return (except, at best, as tourists) to their historical homeland, and hence to their own history, their literature in many ways charts and attempt to "return," as it were, through writing. The homeland to which they seek return is one rooted in history and imagination, grounded not just in the past, but also the future. This is particularly true for Palestinian-American women, who like all women, must negotiate the constraints of gender along with other historical, cultural, and personal exigencies. For those negotiating multiple identities and experiences (as perhaps all exiles must), the return to Palestine becomes on some level a metaphor for the return to the self—a return that for writers most often occurs through language. As Palestinian-American poet Nathalie Handal puts it, poetry becomes homeland. 

— Lisa Suhair Majaj, "On Writing and Return: Palestinian American Reflections," Meridians, V. 1 N. 2 (2001).         

From: "Amérka, Amérka"


4.

From Fassuta, my small village in the Galilee, émigrés went mainly to Brizal and Argentina. My grandfather and his brothers and brother-in-law left for Argentina in 1896, only to return home, empty-handed, a year later. Then on the eve of the First World War, my grandfather tried his luck again, this time on his own, heading once more to Argentina (at least that's what he told my grandmother the night before he took off), where he vanished for about ten years, leaving behind three daughters and three sons, all of them hungry. His youngest son, my uncle Jiryes, followed in his footsteps in 1928, leaving his wife and child behind, never to come back. 

One of my childhood heroes, an old villager whom we, the children of Fassuta, always blamed for having invented school, had actually been to Salt Lake City. I don't have the foggiest idea what he did there for three years before the Depression; his deeds remain a sealed and, I suspect, quite salty book, but he certainly did not betray the Catholic faith, no sir. I still remember him in the late 1950s, breathing down my neck during Mass at the villages's church. He used to wear impeccable white American shirts under his Arab abaya, even some thirty years after he had returned to the village. But that was the only American fingerprint on him; the rest was Middle Eastern. 

The most famous American immigrant from my village, though, was M., my aunt Najeebeh's brother-in-law, Naheebeh being my father's sister. I hate to be finicky about the exact relationship, but that is simply the way it is in Arabic: There are different words to refer to the father's and the mother's side of the family. At any rate, M. left the village in the early 1920s and came back to visit his brothers some forty years later, with his non-Arabic-speaking sons. As a matter of fact, he was the only one of a long, winding line of immigrants who had really made it, or "had it fixed," as the Galileans would sat. He came to own a chain of fast-food restaurants, quite famous in the Midwest. Before I myself left the Mideast for these parts, I went to see his nephews—my cousins—in the village and promised them, under oath, that I would certainly look M. up one day and introduce myself, or at least pop into one of his restaurants and, naturally, ask for a free meal. I have not yet down the former and am still keeping the latter for a rainy Michigan day. However, whenever I come across the chain's emblem, a plump plastic boy holding a plate high above his plumpily combed head, I remember my aunt Najeebeh and think how disconcerted she would be had she known what kind of a mnemonic-device-in-the-form-of-a-cultural-shock she had become for her nephew, in faraway Amérka, as it is called in my part of the world.        
— Anton Shammas, "Amérka, Amérka: A Palestinian in the Land of the Free," Harper's Magazine (January 1, 1991)  

ITALO CALVINO ON PALESTINE




To Issa I. Naouri—Amman 
Turin 10 October 1968  
Dear Mr Naouri,  
I have read the poetry of the Palestinian resistance that you have kindly sent me. They seem to be poets of powerful expressive force, full of sincere poetic and human warmth.  The best thing would be to find a journal to publish these poems, I will try to contact a friend to bring them to journal's attention. Of course, in us Europeans the trauma of the persecution of the Palestinians has a special resonance because their current persecutors suffered—in themselves and in their families—persecutions that were the most horrific and inhuman in centuries, both under Nazism and also a long time before that. That the victims of the past should turn into the oppressors of today is the most distressing fact, the one which I think it is necessary to emphasize. I am sorry that none of these poets deals with this motif. 
Personally I think that the only solution to the Palestinian problem lies down the revolutionary road both in the Arab world and amongst the Israeli masses. A revolution by the Israeli poor (to a large extent of Middle Eastern and North African origin) against their colonialist and expansionist rulers; but also a revolution by the popular masses in Arab countries against their reactionary and militarist oligarchies (even although these call themselves more or less socialist) who exploit the Palestinian problem for nationalist demagoguery. The real Resistance is not only a struggle against a foreign invader: it has to be a battle for a profound renewal within the society of one's own country.  
I wanted to clarify my thoughts in order to confirm my solidarity with the oppressed Palestinians and their Resistance fighters in the context of a general political and human vision.    
Thank you so much and best wishes. 
From Letters, 1941—1985 by Italo Calvino, translated by Martin McLaughlin with an introduction by Michael Wood (Princeton University Press, 2013) p. 358-359. 

VILLAGES REMEMBERED

I met you in al-Zīb: a shattered gravestone,
coffee kettles,
mud storage bins,
cooking vessels,
stone basins for kubbeh,
a grandfather's cane hanging, 
crucified threshing sledges
and a skull in a cage.
Dates once inscribed on the buildings
are still fresh in my memory
speaking to me,
its voice not hoarsened. 

Hanna Abu Hanna, excerpt from "I Choke on Your Sap" 

al-Zīb


Erased from the powerful maps of the world, Palestine was sheltered by the memory of its poets. Outside the map and without one, Palestinians took poetry with them wherever they went. Palestinian poets remembered the lost homeland in the lost homeland itself, in refugee camps, in prisons, and later on in the lands Israel further occupied in 1967, in cities throughout the Arab world and in many other places beyond it. 

From: Khaled Furani, Silencing the Sea: Secular Rhythms in Palestinian Poetry (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2012)  

Suhmata

The basic facts of Suhmata are these: in 1922 the village had a population of 632, which by 1931 had become 796 and by 1945 had grown to 1,130. Suhmata's population in 1948 was approximately 1,350 to 1,400, of which fifty to sixty were Christians and the rest were Muslims. Suhmata's Christian community (at most, four extended families) belonged to the Greek Catholic Church, the largest in the Galilee villages. Church endowments included a church and some olive groves, but members of the Christians community also owned large tracks of land in and around the village.

Despite the small size of its Christian community, Suhmata's mukhtar (the village headman, officially appointed and community approved) was a Christian. His name was Jiryis Kaysar Sim'an. The story of this mukhtar whose father occupied the position before him and who continued in this role in exile in Lebanon  is, according to the oral testimony of the displaced villages, he chose to leave with his community, which settled in the refugee camps of Lebanon. He preferred to share the fate of those who had become refugees, living the wretched life of the camps in exile. When Greek Catholic Archbishop Maximos Hakim offered in 1948 to use his influence to try and repatriate Sim'an and his family to Israel, Sim'an declined the favor unless it included all Suhmatans in exile. He lived the rest of his life with his community.

The identity of the Suhmatans is nourished by such stories, recounted by both Muslim Suhmatans now residing in the wider exile of the Arab world and Christian Suhmatans in internal exile within Israel. Visions of a cohesive, loving, and cooperative community are depicted and praised: 


We were all Suhmatans, living a harmonious life, no difference between Muslim and Christian. We celebrated the happy and the sad events with each other. My friends came from both sects with no conscious differentiation. (Author interview with W., 26 August 2000) 

The people of Suhmata lived like two locked hands [shows to interlocked fists]: united, respectful, and loving. For weddings, a Muslim would take a Christian as his best man and vice versa. (Author interview with N.S., 25 August 2000) 

I welcome all Suhmatans, Christians, and Muslims. We still hold a long history in common. (Author interview with M.K., 28 October 2000) 

From: May Seikaly, "Excavating Memory: Oral History and the Case of Suhmata," in Camille Mansour and Leila Fawaz, eds. Transformed Landscapes: Essays on Palestine and the Middle East in Honor of Walid Khalidi (Cairo: The American University in Cairo Press, 2009)

OH WORKERS! MAY DAY IS YOUR DAY OF FREEDOM - YAŞAR NEZIHE


The early Turkish socialist movement was composed primarily of intellectuals. A salient exception is Yaşar Nezihe the daughter of an unemployed municipal worker. Despite her father’s opposition, she learned to read and write. None of her three husbands supported her; she worked her entire life. Eventually she began publishing poems. Her ode celebrating May 1, 1923 appeared in the socialist weekly, Aydınlık  (Light). This excerpt from her  poem for May 1, 1924 shows that, although the Turkish working class was fragile and largely dispersed in small-scale enterprises, the ideals of the international socialist movement were beginning to be meaningful for some working people.  
Oh workers! May Day is your day of freedom
March forward, there’s light [Aydınlık] to lead you.
The workshops are silent as though the world sleeps.
The exploiters shake, in fear.
Today the Red Flag spreads its inspiration
Opening the path to liberation tomorrow.
Don’t tire of demanding your just rights.
The bourgeoisie always deceive with their lies.
. . .
The greatest celebration will come only when you seize your rights.
What a sweet thought is liberation from exploitation!
Always be united and show your strength!
Don’t abandon unity if you want victory.
You are no plaything in the patrons’ [bosses’] hands.
Raise your head and make them bow before you. 
From: Joel Beinin, Workers and Peasants in the Modern Middle East (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001)  

THE RHETORIC OF BRITISH BROADCASTING


Hear the white world
horribly weary from its immense efforts
its stiff joints crack under the hard stars
its blue steel rigidities pierce the mystic flesh
hear its deceptive victories tout its defeats
hear the grandiose alibis of its pitiful stumbling
 
Pity for our omniscient and naive conquerors! 
— Aimé Césaire, Notebook of a Return to the Native Land 
  

Member's of the BBC's Empire Service staff, including T.S. Eliot and George Orwell, thinking of ways to bring Literature to the natives, 1942. Via @bintbattuta 

By 1939, the British Council had developed significant holdings in Cairo, Alexandria, and Baghdad, and later expanded its operations in Jamaica, Nigeria, and throughout Latin America, ensuring at the very least the continued circulation of English literature and criticism abroad. The “Panel of Book Selectors” included the literary critic Ivor Brown, who authored Contemporary General Literature, and Daniel Jones, a linguist who had written extensively on English phonetics and pronunciation. The council published short introductions to a culturally dominant group of writers. To name a few, Stephen Spender’s Poetry since 1939 summarized the New Signatures movement; Rex Warner revived an interest in E.M. Forster; Edmund Blunden wrote a short book on John Keats; Herbert Read did one on Byron; and John Lehmann provided one on Edith Sitwell. John Hayward wrote Prose Literature since 1939. The council copublished works, such as Bernard Lewis’s British Contributions to Arabic Studies, as a way of reinforcing and maintaining power amid growing anticolonial pressure.  
. . . By the beginning of decolonization, the spaces that the council occupied were extensive. It opened offices in Kenya in 1947, Malawi in 1950, Malaysia in 1948, Pakistan in 1948, Sri Lanka in 1950, and India in 1948. The council’s library system was the most extensive in the world. At the end of 1956, there were ninety-five libraries in fifty-seven countries, containing about 900,000 volumes and about 10,000 periodicals. The cultural presence of the council assumed many forms: institutes, centers, libraries, pamphlets, novels, poetry, manuals, magazines, auditoriums for conductors and symphonies, and spaces for exhibitions. The Sound Department of the council recorded a talk by E.M. Forester to accompany and exhibition of a large model of an Elizabethan theater that was installed adjacent to a display that provided a history of “Shakespeare in the British Theatre”—all to ensure English culture maintained its value in what was then East and West Pakistan; or at the very least, that England retained its imperial identity in order to exert its authority in countries it no longer directly controlled.   
* * * *  
With the postwar expansion of new occasions for transmission and translation, as well as the emergence of new forms such as the “radio magazine,” the relationship between the writer and the public underwent further transformations that would decisively expand and constrain cultural space. Working for the East Indian Division of the BBC, Orwell produced a series of radio talks from 1941 to 1943. Entitled Voices, the radio program brought together a group of Anglophone writers to read and discuss their poetry and prose on the air. In London, the BBC’s Third Programme, which began broadcasting in September 1946, performed a critical function in establishing a dominant culture and community, thus securing the reputation of Isaiah Berlin and T.S. Eliot as public figures and intellectuals. Isaiah Berlin, for example, delivered numerous addresses on the BBC’s Third Programme. T.S. Eliot was broadcast more than on more than eighty occasions on the Third Programme, for which he recorded his British Academy lecture on Milton. Edward Sackville-West speculated that the Third Programme would become “the greatest civilizing force England has known since the secularization of the theater.” What was significant about these institutions is the way that they appeared to inadvertently interact and overlap with the CCF [Congress for Cultural Freedom] and the various organizations it had established in London, Paris, Berlin, New York, and Rome. The first comptroller of the BBC’s Third Programme, Herman Grisewood, served as the treasurer for the British Society for Cultural Freedom, was the editor of the Twentieth Century, the successor to the Nineteenth Century and After, among one of the first publications that the CCF sponsored before it launched Encounter in 1953.
Andrew N. Rubin, Archives of Auhtority: Empire, Culture, and the Cold War, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2012, p. 48; 60-61. 

Poster for the "Hands off Somalia: No to Imperialist Intervention" campaign, 2012.


We decided . . . to see just how 'numerous' the BBC's references to Chavez's legitimate elections are, taking as a dataset all articles about Venezuela between the start of November 1997 (when the BBC website began) and the end of December 2011. This totalled 2,248 articles from the BBC website. Our objective was to research how regularly Hugo Chavez is referred to as a democratically elected president, and to compare this with how often words depicting the president as autocratic or dictatorial have appeared (including direct quotes from opposition politicians/media).   
We found that, indeed, out of the full dataset, there were 146 articles (165 mentions in total within them) which referred to Hugo Chavez as either being elected or winning elections. The word 'legitimate' has appeared only in direct quotes by Hugo Chavez himself.  
Looking further into the data gave interesting results on some of the more unfavourable reporting of Venezuela since Hugo Chavez was elected. In the full dataset, there were 160 articles (containing a total of 198 references) in which Hugo Chavez is described as 'authoritarian', 'totalitarian', or a 'dictator', 'autocrat', or 'tyrant'. These descriptions were overwhelmingly from the Venezuelan opposition and the US government; however there were three instances in which BBC reporters used such descriptions directly in their own words.  
— "13 Years of BBC Reporting on Venezuela's Hugo Chavez," newsunspun.org, February 14, 2012.