January 13, 2009
Joe Klein recently pointed out that Obama’s rumored Middle East negotiating team has many Jews, but no Arabs or Persians. He then lists some names, saying:
But Cohen has listed some powerhouse Muslims, who would be a terrific addition to Obama’s team—Shibley Telhami, Fawaz Gerges and Vali Nasr, among others.
Here’s a problem with what Klein just asserted: two of the three “Muslims” are actually Christians by background. How do I know this? I take a modest interest in the Middle East, and so know that Fawaz Gerges is a Christian from Lebanon (he mentions this frequently because people often assume he is Muslim). The name combined with his Lebanese origin should make this a high probability even if you didn’t know the particular detail. The name was the primary reason that I used something called Google to check whether Shibley Telhami was an Arab Christian or not, and yes, it turns out that he is from a Christian family. One could defend Klein by suggest that he meant Arab, and that he simply conflated when he said Muslim, but Vali Nasr is an ethnic Persian, not an Arab (though at least Muslim by background).
This is one reason I believe we got into the Iraq mess, and why we should keep our noses out of the Middle East: “pundits” who think they know enough to open their mouths actually don’t.” Whereof one does not know, thereof one must be silent.
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