Last night our college hosted an intersting discussion between Daniel Levy and As’ad Abu Khalil. I’ve been reading As’ad’s site- the Angry Arab- for quite some time. He is a strong promoter for the Palestinian cause and has been given the nickname “The Angry Arab” for suitable reasons. I believe I walked into the discussion with a bias, although I did try to research Mr. Levy beforehand. I strongly wanted to question both of them on their views towards the future of the Israeli state, and had done a bit of research on both of their stances.
I had run into As’ad earlier in the afternoon while walking Willa. I think he was surprised that I recognized him, but he also was afraid of Willa. Would love to have spoken with him more then, but he was practically running down the block to get away from my loveable, sweet puppy.
As a part of my Politics of the Middle East class, we were invited to a dinner beforehand with the speakers and other noteable guests. I sat at a table with a few classmates, noticing that As’ad was at the next table over. Daniel Levy was late to the dinner and was seated across the table from me- an incredibly handsome but seemingly distracted man. He seemed nervous, worrying about his cell phone, his napkin. I was eager to speak with him, but one of his first lines blew me away: “I see that our other guest is not wearing a tie, so I do not feel the need to wear mine.” He removed his tie, and unbuttoned the top button on his shirt in one of the rudest introductions I have ever seen. During the course of dinner I felt as though I was trying to get a sense of his political standing. I knew that he was incredibly leftist, but not much beyond that. He instead seemed more worried about the pending discussion, asking us how we thought he should argue, joking (I think) that he should concede off the bat. He did point out that they had many similar views, something I found entirely refreshing. My friend instead decided to ease him up and bring the conversation around to nightlife in DC compared to Tel-Aviv (he prefers Tel-Aviv, “people life as if they are dying tomorrow”). I think my personality clashed with his- he had his arm around Shri’s chair and that action itself seemed incredibly unorthodox.
The discussion was intense. As’ad spoke first for his allotted 30 minutes, discussing largely the media portrayal of Lebanese and Israelis. He also spoke about the way the American government view each, both in the past and the present. As he spoke he grew increasingly intense, and he began reciting important numbers: how many times Hezbollah crossed the blue line (100) compared to how many times the Israelis crossed (11,782). I truly loved one of his saddest lines: I hope you are not surprised that we count our dead.”
Mr. Levy spoke next. I tried to take notes, but his points seemed flurried, confused. He began saying that he had four points, but digressed into a story. My notes consist of simple phrases: “political instability”, “threat perception on Israeli side”, “two-state solution – hopeful outlook.” It is not that I was frugal with my notes, but more that he seemed to be making different, unconnected statements. I believe I also began to lose track of his points because, as he increasingly exceeded his time limit As’ad’s facial expressions became more telling. He looked terribly disintrested, eyes scanning the room. I even thought that he was making eye contact with me a few times (which he later told me he did). He even started fanning himself with his papers- though I must admit the room was a sauna. When Mr. Levy finished speaking, As’ad pointed out that Daniel had spoken for an hour, whereas the time limits were expected to be a half hour each with a half hour for questions. I thought this was interesting also because, at dinner, I had warned Daniel that As’ad was called the Angry Arab for a reason. He joked to me, “should I just allow him the whole time and let him speak for entertainment?” It was also interesting because As’ad was given the template for a reaction to Daniel’s time, and had drawn up various points that he wanted to, for lack of a better word, attack.
During the question and answer session, a kid behind me posed a question. Daniel took the microphone and proceeded to react to As’ad’s comments, and then after answered the questions. When the next question was posed, As’ad took the microphone and reacted to Daniel’s questions. I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or not, because in some respects it was funny. But it also hit me that these were two Leftist men at an intellectual discussion and they were unable to hold their anger.
I enjoyed meeting As’ad again after the talk. He joked about Willa- that she was attempting to murder him but that I did not realize it. He is an incredibly pleasant man when not angry, although I do think he is angry a lot of the time.
We chatted quickly through email last night, and I am sure that I will continue to read his site.
Perhaps I will even write later about today’s events?