Give Me that Old-time Schadenfreude: Dabashi vs. AbuKhalil
by Winfield Myers • Jul 24, 2009 at 10:56 am
Hamid Dabashi, an Iranian specialist at Columbia University, is usually a reliable source of rabid anti-American, anti-Western, and anti-Israeli hysteria. To pick but one example, he turned a review of the movie 300, which depicted the epic battle between the Spartans (i.e., the West) and Persians (the East) at Thermopylae into an apologia for Palestinian suicide bombers:
Leonidas' mission in Snyder's 300 is an act of suicidal violence—a suicidal violence that if performed by white people in remote corners of history is heroic but if by Palestinians or Iraqis then it becomes sign [sic] of barbarism.
Yet the Iranian-born Dabashi, writing in the Egyptian English-language newspaper Al-Ahram Weekly, has turned his purple prose on a fellow Middle East studies professor whose record of rants against the West equals his own: Lebanese-born Asad AbuKhalil of Cal State Stanislaus. Writing on his blog The Angry Arab, AbuKhalil asserted that an American conspiracy is behind the anti-government demonstrations in Iran:
I am now more convinced than ever that the US and Western governments were far more involved in Iranian affairs during the demonstrations than was assumed by many.
It's difficult not to indulge in a bit of Schadenfreude over this sordid affair. Dabashi has joined many of his colleagues in rooting for the right side for a change, a (doubtless temporary) trend examined recently by CW's Cinnamon Stillwell.
AbuKhalil (whose writing evinces considerable liberation from the colonialist tool called the paragraph) has simply stuck to the original playbook of the Middle East studies establishment: conspiracy theories, rabid anti-Americanism, and empirical certitude that all the world's troubles begin and end with the plight of the Palestinians. He delivers more of the same in a rebuttal of Dabashi; its very title, "Hamid Dabashi's Attack on My Person," reflects the victimology that marks the highest state of consciousness for this academic clan.
Let's look at a few choice passages from Dabashi's article, "The Left Is Wrong on Iran," with my comments.
This is perhaps my favorite sentence, written months before Halloween:
One simply must have dug oneself deeply and darkly, mummified inside a forgotten and hollowed grave on another planet not to have seen, heard and felt for millions of human beings risking their brave lives and precious liberties by pouring into the streets of their cities demanding their constitutional rights for peaceful protest.
Dabashi is entirely correct below (if only the Middle East studies establishment would take this line to heart):
[H]as a sophomoric reading of postmodernity so completely corrupted our moral standards that there is no reality any more, just representation?
What's an academic feud without some Marxian/postcolonial psychoanalysis?
He fancies himself opposing the US and Israel. But he has such a deeply colonised mind that he thinks nothing of us, of our will to fight imperial intervention, colonial occupation of our homelands, and domestic tyranny at one and the same time. He believes if we do it then Americans and the Saudis must have put us up to it. He is so utterly lost in his own moral desolation and intellectual despair that in his estimation only Americans can instigate a mass revolt of the sort that has unfolded in front of his eyes.
And again in his conclusion:
A colonised mind is a colonised mind whether it is occupied by the European right or by the cliché-ridden left: it is an occupied territory, devoid of detail, devoid of substance, devoid of love, devoid of a caring intellect. It smells of ageing mothballs, and it is nauseating.
I'll close by quoting Middle East scholar Martin Kramer, who in an email put Dabashi's article into context:
It's a gem of Dabashi style—overwritten in a Persian way, oozing passion, and it easily competes with the perverse account of his visit to Israel. But the bottom line is valid: for years, Dabashi expresses unquestioning solidarity with every kind of Palestinian nut case, and when the Iranian people finally get the courage to make a peep, the Angry Arab et al. suspect an imperialist plot. Dabashi now discovers that being truly pro-Palestinian means you must oppose freedom for anyone until the privileged Pals get what they want (whatever that is). No freedom for the Iraqis, who should have continued sweltering under Saddam, and none for the Iranians. What, A'jad not good enough for them?
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