The Berlin International Center for the Study of Antisemitism

Monat: Dezember 2015

Anti-Israel Columbia Prof Hamid Dabashi a Big Hit in Germany

by Clemens Heni

Written for Campus Watch
also published with The Algemeiner
December 18, 2015

Columbia University Iranian studies scholar Hamid Dabashi has become the darling of German academia. It’s no coincidence that he exemplifies academic hatred for Israel and the trivialization of Germans crimes and the Holocaust.

Columbia’s Hagop Kevorkian Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature, Dabashi has experienced a flurry of speaking engagements at German universities and organizations. In May 2015, he was invited to speak at Freie Universität Berlin. On November 26, he spoke at the Institute for Foreign Affairs, which is financed by the German Foreign Ministry, the state of Baden-Württemberg, and the city of Stuttgart in the Southwest of Germany. The event was hosted by the Berlin Social Science Center. The day before, Dabashi spoke at the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation, associated with the Party of the Left, which is known for several antisemiticscandals in recent years. In May 2016, Dabashi will be one of the keynote speakers at the „Third Bremen Conference on Language and Literature in Colonial and Postcolonial Contexts.“

Hamid Dabashi talking at the left-wing Rosa Luxemburg Foundation in Berlin, Nov. 25, 2015

Hamid Dabashi talking at the left-wing Rosa Luxemburg Foundation in Berlin, Nov. 25, 2015

Germany is a hotbed of academic antisemitism, particularly in the fields of Islamic and Middle Eastern studies. Germans are particularly pleased with non-European scholars, such as Dabashi, who will defame Israel and downplay the crimes of the Holocaust. French philosopher Vladimir Jankélévitch analyzed this new antisemitism as early as 1971 in his piece, „Forgiving?“ („Pardonner?“), in which he noted Germans‘ need to accuse Jews of being „like Nazis.“ Turning their former victims, the Jews, into perpetrators diminishes the Germans‘ unprecedented crimes. Scholarship labels this the „inversion of truth.“ It can also be framed as „secondary anti-Semitism,“ a form of post-Holocaust antisemitism. Denying Auschwitz is for beginners.

Dabashi calls his new book, Can Non-Europeans Think? (April 2015), part three of his „Intifada trilogy.“ In it, Dabashi promotes the trope, popularized by anti-Israel activist Ilan Pappé, that Israel is committing an „incremental genocide“ of the Palestinians. Palestinian sources themselves admit that the populations of Gaza and the West Bank have grown in recent decades, rendering this definition of „genocide“ particularly perfidious.

As I demonstrated in my 2013 book, Dabashi wants to destroy the Jewish state of Israel, which he calls a „racist Apartheid state.“ He supported German former Waffen SS member and Nobel Prize Laureate Günter Grass after he’d written a nasty anti-Israel poem portraying Iran as a victim of Israeli aggression.

According to international scholarship and the US State Department, the comparison or equation of Israel to Nazi Germany is antisemitic in effect if not intent. In 2014, as Martin Kramer noted, Dabashi equated Auschwitz with Gaza with his article, „Gaza: Poetry after Auschwitz.“ In a leading German daily, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ), DirkBraunstein of the Frankfurt Institute for Social Research, an expert on the philosopher Theodor W. Adorno — whom Dabashi employed for his flawed comparison — proffered the same criticism.

Dabashi is eager to use Jewish philosophers such as Edmund Husserl, eminent Zionist Emmanuel Lévinas, and Adorno — who was very pro-Israel, as recentscholarship, including my own, has shown — for his anti-Semitic purposes. He is influenced by anti-Zionist, post-colonialist authors Edward Said, Gianni Vattimo, and Walter Mignolo. Mignolo, an Argentinian-born supporter of the anti-Jewish state resolution, „One State Solution,“ wrote the foreword to Dabashi’s Can Non-Europeans Think?

In a 2012 article, Dabashi paraphrased French post-colonialist poet Aimé Césaire’s Discourse sur le colonialisme/Discourse on Colonialism:

[T]he Jewish Holocaust was not an aberration in European history. Rather, Europeans actually perpetrated similar crimes against humanity on the colonised world at large.

This is an extreme distortion of history, a lie, and a denial of the unprecedented evil of the Holocaust, in which Germans (and their helpers) killed six million Jews. Never before was there the intention, plan, and the infrastructure to murder an entire people. Auschwitz was a complete breakdown of civilization and not in any way comparable to crimes committed during colonialism, imperialism, or any other atrocity in history. It was no less than the industrial slaughter of a people. Millions of other Jews were deported to the woods of Eastern Europe and eradicated. It was in every way unparalleled.

The government-sponsored German Institute for Foreign Affairs and other leading universities would never host a known neo-Nazi who claims that Israel is an „apartheid state,“ that Auschwitz was a mere „crime“ on par with the 2014 Gaza war, and that the Iranian threat does not exist. However, a non-European like the Iranian-born Dabashi is not only welcomed, but embraced by German audiences for two reasons: hatred of Israel and the distortion of German crimes and the Holocaust.

Can non-Europeans think? Of course. Can non-Europeans be antisemites and hateful agitators, obsessed with the trivialization of the Shoah as well as with the destruction of the Jewish State? Obviously, yes. Dabashi proves the point.

The author, Dr. Clemens Heni, is a political scientist, the Director of the Berlin International Center for the Study of Antisemitism (BICSA), a former Post-Doc at YALE. He is author of five books, including „Schadenfreude. Islamic Studies and Antisemitism in Germany after 9/11“ (2011, in German, 410 pages) and „Antisemitism: A Specific Phenomenon: Holocaust Trivialization – Islamism – Post-colonial and Cosmopolitan anti-Zionism“ (2013, 648 pages, in English). He wrote this essay forCampus Watch, a project of theMiddle East Forum.

The first 12 Lessons from the San Bernardino jihadist attack

No. 1): Jihad, Islamism and terror are the biggest threats in the Western world ever since 9/11. 9/11 was the starting point for Jihad to take aim at the West. Madrid, London, Toulouse, Brussels, Copenhagen, Paris (twice in 2015) followed.

No. 2) Israel and the Jews are among the main targets for Jihad, never forget this. Take San Bernardino as an example, where a Jew had debates with one of the jihadists who later killed him. BDS or the economic boycott of the Jewish state is a form of economic jihad, by the way, as it follows the antisemitic idea that Jews as Zionists have no place in the Middle East. Antisemitism is always a crucial factor for all kinds of jihadism and Islamism. Conspiracy theories about Jews and America running the world and the denial of the Zionist cause are essential components of the antisemitic worldview of Islamism, not to forget Holocaust distortion, denial if not affirmation.

No. 3) For some, it is very difficult these days to follow the crucial distinction between Islamism and Islam (see No. 9). But this distinction is crucial! It is not the same, but it all starts with Islam. Every Jihadist once was a harmless, but religious and not secular Muslim. But there are many anti-Islamist Muslims out there, too! They need our support and we need their help to fight Islamism as well. (updated, 3 pm).

No. 4) Islamist organizations in the West are a crucial component in downplaying the Islamist and jihadist threat – and the media and public quite often takes them seriously. CAIR in the US, which is mentioned and analyzed in a piece by MEF Director Gregg Roman, is a leading voice in downplaying if not affirming Islamism (both the legal and the jihadist versions). CAIR was even promoted by a leading daily, the Washington Post, as Roman emphasizes.

No. 5) Obviously, there is also racism in the West, in Germany as well as in America, no doubt about this. And many Germans who detest Islam – take the PEGIDA (Patriotic Europeans against the Islamization of the Occident) movement or the party AfD (Alternative for Germany) – also detest America, Jews and Israel. At a huge rally, including neo-Nazis who joined them on Nov. 7 in the heart of Berlin, the AfD promoted pictures of Germany framed in the colors of the US, saying that Germany is „occupied“ by NSA, CIA and the US Army. Portraying Germany as „occupied“ by the US and dominated by the CIA is a typical neo-Nazi trope, but now acceptable in the mainstream. With these kind of folks a fight against Islamism and Jihad is impossible. Be aware of this.

No. 6) Even much more mainstream is the downplaying of the Islamist threat among German Islamic Studies scholars. They are silent about San Bernardino and Paris in the best case, or distort the Islamist dimension in the worst case. We have proof for this behavior since 9/11 and before. We know of German Islamic Studies scholars who have (or had) Hezbollah flags in their official University offices (I am not mentioning names here, though).

No. 7) We need a change in the West: we need to take off the gloves, as Roman says, and fight Jihad and all – all – forms of Islamism. The legal form of Islamism is essential for the jihadist version to succeed. Legal Islamists take care that the West does not analyze and fight the Islamist threat. We should have started long before 9/11, but we failed. We also failed after 9/11, after Madrid, London, Paris and all those attacks Israel faced and is facing, we did not care („we“ means the mainstream, of course).

No. 8) Programs in “Islamist ideology” should be an essential component in all Islamic and Middle East Studies programs as well as in other programs, including public debates, for students, scholars, and in particular the elites in politics, the media and cultural establishment.

No. 9) And, yes, as MEF President Daniel Pipes always stresses:

„Yes, certain continuities do exist; and Islamists definitely follow the Koran and Hadith literally. Moderate Muslims exist but lack Islamists‘ near-hegemonic power. Erdoğan’s denial of moderate Islam points to a curious overlap between Islamism and the anti-Islam viewpoint. Muhammad was a plain Muslim, not an Islamist, for the latter concept dates back only to the 1920s. And no, we are not cowardly but offer our true analysis.“

Finally, Daniel Pipes concludes (2013):

„Those who make all Islam their enemy not only succumb to a simplistic and essentialist illusion but they lack any mechanism to defeat it. We who focus on Islamism see World War II and the Cold War as models for subduing the third totalitarianism. We understand that radical Islam is the problem and moderate Islam is the solution. We work with anti-Islamist Muslims to vanquish a common scourge. We will triumph over this new variant of barbarism so that a modern form of Islam can emerge.“

No. 10) Muslims have to accept now and forever, that religion can only be part of their personal beliefs, just part of their private life, never ever part of a political agenda. Sharia may not have a chance in the West and all over the world. This is a huge task for many decades.

No. 11) There might be hope when British Labour politicians finally understand that England fought the „fascists“ (or Germans, or Nazis) in the Second World War and now we have to fight “Islamic fascism,” ISIS in Syria/Iraq and all other forms of jihad and terror. Fighting jihad should be crucial for all kind of antifascists, including Conservatives, Liberals and the Left. The mainstream Left in Germany, though, will never join forces against Islamic fascism, as it looks like. They detest America and Israel, not jihad.

No. 12) When will Islamic and Middle East Studies scholars, journalists, politicians, the elites and those famous „experts“ in the West or Germany finally get these messages? Never, I fear. Still, we hope. Hope in a lost world.


Dr. Clemens Heni is the Director of the Berlin International Center for the Study of Antisemitism (BICSA)


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