Friday, July 17, 2009

Hamid Dabashi's attack on my person

Hamid Dabashi is criticizing me here. He seems focused (but very selectively and unrepresentative) on what I have been writing on my website on Iran, and manages to misunderstand what I say, or manages to distort what I say. I wrote a long article on Iran for Al-Akhbar and if Dabashi can read Arabic, I would recommend that he read it. He then said: "Ten years I spent watching every single Palestinian film I could lay my hands on before I opened my mouth and uttered a word about Palestinian cinema." Well, good for you, Hamid. Do you want a blender for watching "every single Palestinian film"? Would you like the Palestinian people to bow down in awe for that movie effort of yours? He then said: "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." Come on. I expect better from you, but maybe I shouldn't. And what is this with "nothing of us"? Who are "us"? It seems to me that you can't from exile pretend to be one with the Iranian masses under tyranny just as I can't from exile pretend to be one with the Arab masses under tyranny. Let us be aware of our privileges and locations and let us remember that famous dictum by Marx in the German Ideology. Are you trying for purposes of political sympathy to erase class and geographical boundaries? I can say more about the Dabashi piece but Dabashi always makes an effort to sound sophisticated and trendy (intellectually speaking). It was apparently difficult for Dabashi to understand my position: to say that the US, Saudi and other reactionary forces were involved in a conspiracy in Iran is in no way to deny the existence of a genuine and sincere movement in Iran against the oppressive regime there. In fact, I made that very argument in my long article on the subject in Al-Akhbar which Dabashi should bother to read before he makes all those generalizations about my stance on Iran. On the blog in English, of course I am more concerned with Western media representation and yet you even managed to misunderstand those, or seem hurt by my criticisms of the New York Times' and CNN's coverage of Iran, and on that we disagree. And no, I am no fan of Soroush by the way. Does that make me colonized in my mind further? Please diagnose me, o expert on leftist maladies. I deliberately wanted to address the Iran situation in Arabic to Arab audiences and part of my task was to dismiss the fashionable conspiracy theories among some Arab nationalist and Arab leftist circles that dismiss the indigenous sources of the protest movement of Iran, and many Arab leftists and Arab nationalists wrote to me in disagreement with that. Maybe if Dabashi takes some time off from watching Palestinian movies and spend more time reading what Arabs say in Arabic, he would be better informed. I don't pose as Iran expert but I comment on matters of international affairs. But I really believe that Dabashi has serious comprehension problems because he quotes me as saying: "I do believe that the majority of Iranian protesters were motivated by domestic issues and legitimate grievances against an oppressive government."" And yet he then (a few sentences later) claims that I have dismissed all the Iranian protesters as tools in the hands of an American-Saudi conspiracy. Let me try to explain it again to Dabashi in more simple terms: the two don't contradict one another. To say that there is an American plot in Iran is not to say that all the protesters in Iran are tools of a Western plot. He laments that I love to hate CNN and the New York Times and I believe that it is an obligation for a leftist (since he has appointed himself as the world authority on Leftism, Arab and otherwise) to oppose and deconstruct the media of the US corporate powers. In fact, the extensive coverage of CNN and the New York Times was actually criminal because it distorted the pictures of what is happening in Iran, and it gave a false sense of the stance of Western governments to the Iranian peoples, and some of whom who were under the false impression that the West really cares about their plight. He then again misunderstands what I had to say about Honduras which leads me to believe that Dabashi has his most difficulty when dealing with more than one variable at a time. He then said: "One simply must have dug oneself deeply and darkly, mummified inside a forgotten and hollowed grave on another planet not to have seen..." This is not related to me but there is really no need for such effort in artificially trying to construct a complex sentence when in reality it is not. Just some advice. Dabashi then cites this section that I wrote: "In his most recent posting, AbuKhalil has this to say about Iran: "For the most reliable coverage of the Iran story, I strongly recommend the New York Times. I mean, they have Michael Slackman in Cairo and Nazila Fathi in Toronto, and they have 'independent observers' in Tehran. What else do you want? If you want more, the station of King Fahd's brother-in-law (Al-Arabiya) has a correspondent in Dubai to cover Iran. And according to a report that just aired, Mousavi received 91 per cent of the vote in 'an elite neighborhood'. I kid you not. They just said that." The Iranians have no reporters, no journalists, no analysts, no pollsters, no economists, no sociologists, no political scientist, no newspaper editorials, no magazines, no blogs, and no websites? If AbuKhalil ipso facto deprives an entire nation of their defiance against tyranny, their agency in changing their own destiny?" You just don't get it. That was the point I was making: that one should not rely on those silly New York Times articles but should rely on the Iranian peoples themselves. Get it? It is difficult for me to debate him but he so easily misunderstands and he will inevitably misunderstand those words. Dabashi then ends his article by a string of cliches, but then again, that is what he does: stringing leftist sounding cliches. "A colonized mind is a colonized 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 aging mothballs, and it is nauseating." But here is the problem with Dabashi: he claims to be responding to Arab leftists on Iran but he has only read one piece by Azmi Bisharah (and missed what he had to say in Arabic on the subject), and he cites a few of my blog posts on the subject. Al-Akhbar is a leftist publication and has published me and others on Iran, and he has missed all of that. Also, I understand being emotional on the subject as I am on issues of political injustice but emotions don't replace arguments, even if they pose (falsely) arguments, as they do in this piece by Dabashi. (thanks Raed and twenty others)