February 24 / 25, 2007
As'ad Abu Khalil Among the Missing
A Debate on the Israel Lobby
By JEFFREY BLANKFORT
It appeared that all but a handful of the 300 seats were filled in Room 250 of University of San Francisco's McClaren Conference Center on a rainy Thursday night for what was probably the first debate on the power and influence of the Israel Lobby held between critics of Israel. And it almost didn't happen.
A little more than week before the event, those involved in the event: the organizer, Fred Shepherd, of Global Information Services, and the other participants, moderator Khalil Bendib, my debating partner, Dr. Hatem Bazian, of UC Berkeley, and one of our opponents, Prof. Stephen Zunes, of USF, learned that Zunes' anticipated partner, Prof. As'ad AbuKhalil, of CSU, Stanislaus, was not planning showing up.
Rather than having the courtesy to notify us of his intentions, we had to get the information from people who had written AbuKhalil about the debate and to whom he replied that he was not planning to participate.
When contacted by Shepherd, AbuKhalil wrote that he would not accept to take the "No" side of the debate if the question was, as debated Thursday, "Is the Israel Lobby the Dominant Factor in Determining US Middle East Policy?" but would only participate if the question was changed to "Is the Israel Lobby the Sole and Dominant Factor in Determining US Middle East Policy?" AbuKhalil is smart enough to realize that no one, neither Mearsheimer and Walt, nor anyone with any knowledge of US interests in the region would be willing to argue that the lobby is the only factor in determining US policy. What he was doing, it appeared, was trying to sabotage the debate.