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How Orientalism Shaped Obama

The White House’s response to the anti-Islam video is proof of the enduring influence of Edward Said’s ideas

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Edward Said. (Francis Tsang/Cover/Getty Images)

In the early morning hours of Sept. 11, the U.S. embassy in Cairo issued a press release condemning the “continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims.” It was a shameful statement—why should the U.S. government apologize for our First Amendment freedoms? It was easy to sympathize with American foreign service officers trying to soothe an angry mob gathering outside the embassy compound and threatening to burn it down.

But it was something else when U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice told ABC’s Jake Tapper on Sunday morning that the protests convulsing through the Muslim World were “the direct result of a heinous and offensive video that was widely disseminated, that the U.S. government had nothing to do with, which we have made clear is reprehensible and disgusting.” At this point, you could no longer chalk it up to an attempt to calm religious fanatics menacing American diplomats.

No, it seems this administration actually believes that the anti-American protests that swept through the Muslim world last week were the result of a shoddy online movie trailer. Never mind that the Libyan president said that the murders of U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three others in Benghazi were the result of a pre-planned attack. Or that in Cairo the video was not widely disseminated, as Rice claimed, but shown on an Islamist TV station in an abridged form. Or that the video simply served as one pretext among others for the Muslim Brotherhood’s Salafist rivals to mass in front of the U.S. embassy and embarrass President Mohamed Morsi by showing that he can’t control Egypt’s streets.

Perhaps the White House knows all this, and blaming the video is part of some complex public diplomacy campaign. But it’s hard to see how this makes President Obama look good. Two months from the presidential election, the White House seems to be telling the electorate that one person’s unpleasant representation of Islam and its prophet is more significant than mobs rioting and burning American flags in more than 20 countries.

The question is why the White House is using this particular conceit to obscure the obvious: that the video was nothing more than a pretext for an intra-Arab political offensive; that various domestic political forces, as is often the case in Arab politics, used the United States as a bank-shot to score points off of each other; and that the demonstrations were simply another example of intra-Arab power politics.

Just as the Bush Administration sought expertise outside of government when it ran into troubles in the Middle East, it seems that the Obama White House has done the same. Where President Bush and Dick Cheney reached out to scholars like Bernard Lewis and Fouad Ajami to help them interpret the region, it seems Obama has taken a page out of Edward Said’s Orientalism.

Said, who died in 2003, was a larger-than-life professor of English and comparative literature at Columbia. (Obama, who was a student in 1981-1982, must have been aware of the internationally famous Palestinian-American professor, though because his transcripts haven’t been released we don’t know if he ever studied with Said. We do know that they both spoke at a 1999 event for Said’s colleague and Obama’s friend Rashid Khalidi.) But lack of personal connection would hardly prevent Said from influencing Obama’s views of the region. Although Said was not a Middle East expert, his 1978 masterwork, Orientalism, has shaped how at least a generation’s worth of academics, journalists, and laymen see the region.

The book argues that 18th- and 19th-century Western cultural representations of the Middle East served the aims of Western powers seeking to dominate the lands of Islam and subjugate its peoples. In Said’s telling, the demeaning accounts and images of Islam and the Middle East produced by European artists, writers, and historians helped the great European empires—and later the United States—overrun peoples whose humanity the West did not fully recognize.

The book is one of the most influential to come out of the academy in the last half-century, even giving rise to a number of separate disciplines within humanities departments. More important, it made legions of readers sensitive to the depredations of past imperial interference and Western foreign policy in the Middle East, leading many to conclude that a key goal of U.S. policy should be to reverse this pattern. However, Orientalism is not about the Middle East, but about the way the Middle East has been represented. As Said openly admitted in the afterword to the 1994 edition of the book, “I have no interest in, much less capacity for, showing what the true Orient and Islam really are.”

Perhaps the literature professor was using a postmodern trope here, but regardless such nuances were lost on readers who hadn’t been exposed to continental literary theory and instead imagined they were getting useful insights into a very complex part of the world. The effect of Said’s book was to show them that they didn’t really need to know much about the region, except for two major facts: that demeaning Western representations of Islam—orientalist renderings of the region—were to be avoided at all costs since these were the instruments of empire, and foreign interference was almost entirely responsible for the region’s pathologies.

“So far as the United States seems to be concerned,” Said wrote in the Nation in 1980, “it is only a slight overstatement to say that Moslems and Arabs are essentially seen as either oil suppliers or potential terrorists. Very little of the detail, the human density, the passion of Arab-Moslem life has entered the awareness of even those people whose profession it is to report the Arab world. What we have instead is a series of crude, essentialized caricatures of the Islamic world presented in such a way as to make that world vulnerable to military aggression.”

Said was right that very little of that detail reached American audiences. But he was partly to blame for giving the impression that all they needed to know about the region was how Westerners had misrepresented, misunderstood, and colonized it. In other words, instead of describing the density and passion of the Middle East, Said flattered the self-image of Westerners: Everything that had gone wrong with the Middle East was because of them. Accordingly, for the Obama Administration, it is almost inconceivable that last week’s demonstrations could have been about anything other than something that we Americans did.

There were prior hints that Obama’s understanding of the region was shaped by Said’s approach. In his June 2009 Cairo speech, Obama said, “I consider it part of my responsibility as President of the United States to fight against negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they appear.” That bizarre formulation, that an American president must be vigilant against unflattering representations of Islam, makes more sense now. By ignoring on-the-ground dynamics in the Muslim world and focusing on a Western cultural product, this past week the administration has made its analytical model of the region clear. Said would’ve surely seen the video the same way: as another example of an “orientalist”—i.e., demeaning—representation of Islam, and another example of Western arrogance toward Middle Easterners.

He would have been wrong. The truth is that there are lots of people in the region who are disdainful of Said’s paternalism, his eagerness of find offense everywhere in order to protect Middle Eastern sensibilities. Rather, they want exactly what Americans have, the right to criticize anything we like, including or especially religion. The Obama Administration failed them as well as Americans when they missed an opportunity to make a robust defense of America’s universal values. Instead, it was trying to placate a bloodthirsty mob by observing the intellectual strictures of an English professor.

***

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Said was a very clever practitioner of the Noble Lie. He portrayed Islam
as downtrodden and oppressed when it is the Muslims themselves who have
practiced oppression and subjugation through violence from the day they
left the Arabian peninsula.

jacob_arnon says:

“However, Orientalism is not about the Middle East, but about the way the Middle East has been represented. As Said openly admitted in the afterword to the 1994 edition of the book, “I have no interest in, much less capacity for, showing what the true Orient and Islam really are.””

This is a major problem with the book, that and the fact that he left out antisemitic tropes in both the representation of the Middle East and the accompanying anti Judaic fervor that even a casual glance would reveal.

By leaving out the presence of Jews (older than Islam itself) he showed that he viewed his book as a contribution of the Arab war against the Jews.

In any case, even on its own terms the book is deficient since in order to show a mis-representation one would have to show how the object represented really is.

This said does not do. In addition as it was shown by scholars from Bernard Lewis to Robert Irwin and Ibn Warraq and others.

For Warraq’s critique see:

http://dissentmagazine.org/democratiya/article_pdfs/d12Zarnett.pdf

Said’s ignorance of Arab and Turkish history and in the case of the latter, language, is legion and in any sane society that cared about truth being an important aim of critical theory his screed would not have been taken seriously.

Ed Weissman says:


In his June 2009 Cairo speech, Obama said, “I consider it part of my responsibility as President of the United States to fight against negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they appear.” That bizarre formulation, that an American president must be vigilant against unflattering representations of Islam, makes more sense now.” Simply because President Obama recognized that prejudice against any religion is not acceptable in America, how does one derive the conclusion that that Smith reaches? No one who didn’t start with the conclusion and look for ‘facts’ to bolster the conclusion would. But Smith is an editor at the Weekly Standard; academic honesty matters not one whit.

First of all, Rice was talking about the protests – not the murders. Protesting something and actually murdering people are in fact very very different so it helps to keep these things distinct. I know it’s tempting to draw a direct connection here, but even if there are muslims/arabs behind both the protests and the murders, that doesn’t mean that they are the same. These actors may have even been motivated by similar or even identical motives/ideologies, but there acts are different: protesting is fine and murder isn’t (just so we’re clear).

Second of all, Said never maintained that “everything that had gone wrong in the middle east” was because of the West. What he did argue, to a Western audience, was to be wary of how the people of this region have been represented. Given Lee Smith’s gross conflations of protesters with murders it seems like we may still need to pay heed to Said’s argument.

Thirdly, I think it makes a good deal of sense for the President of the United States to condemn hatred against Islam and have no idea why Smith thinks this a “bizarre formulation” (well, no I do have some idea why). There are Muslims in this country, the President represents them, and I think he should speak out against the hatred of those Muslims (as Bush did), just as he should speak out against the hatred Jews and Christians.

The chief problem with Obama’s statement is this, that he leaves undefined what he means by ‘negative stereotypes’. Most Westerners would understand this differently to most Muslims, and Muslims by and large have no problem with negative stereotypes of Jews, Hindus, Baha’is and Christians. A great deal of what Europeans and Americans would regard as intelligent commentary or bad but not necessarily offensive writing, drawing and filming about Islam would probably appear as deeply offensive from within a culture that permits no form of criticism or free comment. I worry particularly (having been on the receiving end of it) about academic writing and teaching about Islam. Western academics are more and more under pressure to avoid saying anything that might be considered offensive. But that includes a great deal of modern scholarship about the Qur’an, the hadith, and Islamic origins (especially the life of Muhammad), which are illegal in most Islamic countries. It is Obama’s duty to defend the Western principles like free speech and academic freedom, not the hypersensitivity of the world’s Muslims. Said did terrible damage.

There is protest that is just that, and there is protest that tends towards or even instigates violence, and there is violence that leads to murder. When marchers in London and elsewhere chanted ‘Hamas, Hamas, Jews to the gas’ and the police just watched them, it increased the likelihood that things would get out of hand (‘We can call for murder and the police just shrug their shoulders: we’re untouchable’). The kind of rioting that preceded and accompanied the killings in Libya, and the current rioting almost everywhere (which has led to over 30 deaths already) is not legitimate protest and should not be tolerated. When Muslims demonstrated outside the Danish embassy in London holding placards that read ‘Behead the Infidels’, ‘UK, You will Pay’ and much much more, the police did nothing and later arrested only about 6 individuals. Every single person holding a placard should have been arrested on the spot and given jail sentences of between 6 months (at that time) or a year (if they were brought before magistrates now). I have sent people to jail for 6 months for much less serious crimes. We need to turn all protests into something we can live with and keep society civilized.

Beatrix17 says:

How can you separate the protests and the murders? There is nothing wrong with Said or Smith’s analysis of Said, it’s just that the President should be seeing matters more deeply.

Binyamin says:

Would it have been “bizarre” for Obama to have said, “I consider it part of my responsibility as President of the United States to fight against negative stereotypes of [Jews] wherever they appear”?

Beatrix17 says:

There was a time after beating the Ottoman Empire who
sided with Germany in WW1, that much of the Middle East was
controlled by Western nations, including England. (We didn’t like
being controlled by England, either). Many people think America is
hated because we support Israel. The truth is that Israel is
distrusted because she has sided with the West, the former colonists,
and has unintentionally made herself a surrogate for that hate.

Pam Green says:

Great post. Could you elaborate on what Said claimed was centuries of misrepresentation? I’ve read many of the early Western accounts of the region by academics, archeologists and explorers, and did not find much outright bigotry. In fact, these writers typically knew many Arabic dialects, worked closely with Muslims and seem to have been very conscientious in their reporting.

Pam Green says:

Great post. Could you elaborate on what Said claimed was centuries of misrepresentation? I’ve read many of the early Western accounts of the region by academics, archeologists and explorers, and did not find much outright bigotry. In fact, these writers typically knew many Arabic dialects, worked closely with Muslims and seem to have been very conscientious in their reporting.

Pam Green says:

Great post. Could you elaborate on what Said claimed was centuries of misrepresentation? I’ve read many of the early Western accounts of the region by academics, archeologists and explorers, and did not find much outright bigotry. In fact, these writers typically knew many Arabic dialects, worked closely with Muslims and seem to have been very conscientious in their reporting.

Lee Smith’s tendentious and reductive formulations are one of the most disappointing features of the often excellent Tablet. Here, he shows a lack of familiarity with Said’s real work in _Orientalism_ which is the problem of the Western gaze, not the reality of the Arab world (which is also more complex than Smith himself portrays.) And why should anyone have a problem with Obama’s desire to combat “against negative stereotypes of Islam” (just as one presumes he would counter stereotypes of Jews, Christians and others). If that humane sensibility will keep us out of another Republican war in the Middle East, that is a sentiment we should all get behind. Let those of us who work for and desire peace work harder for his reelection.

jacob_arnon says:

It’s more complicated than that, Beatrix.

In Israel there millions of Jews who had been expelled from Arab lands not because the sided with the West or even with Israel, but because they were Jews.

Then there is the issue the Arab treatment of Jews before Europeans conquered these countries.

Jews had it pretty bad and in many Arab countries were on the point of extinction. It was the Western “Imperialist powers” who when they became the colonial master who helped Jews become almost a normal people again.

This is another reason the Arabs hated Jews their enemies because they were treated with a lot more compassion than had the Arabs.

Do some readings in the history of the region, Beatrix.

You may want to start with Cervantes’ “Los banos de Argel”

http://www.amazon.com/Los-banos-Argel-Cervantes-completo/dp/8420643645

The baths of Algiers, I am sure you can find a translated copy in the library.

Cervantes was himself a slave in Algiers till he was ransomed by family and he had first hand knowledge of the status of foreigners in Arab North Africa:

http://www.amazon.com/Cervantes-Algiers-A-Captives-Tale/dp/0826514707

Arabs themselves have a long history of colonialism and imperialism as well as slave traders.

jacob_arnon says:

Maybe, maybe not; depends on the context.

In any case he didn’t say that did he!

jacob_arnon says:

Goodness here is a poster who talks about “the gaze” (a lacanian formulation) and calls Smith “tendentious.” This is the very definition of chutzpah.

There is much less to Said than his groupies would like to believe.

Said was a brilliant scholar. I think his insights concerning French and English 19th century scholarship and art concerning the East are exceptionally penetrating. His book is a monument to a particular kind of scholarly analysis. That he chose to yoke it to contemporary political problems is more problematic. A devout Christian, his grandfather was the Methodist Bishop of Jerusalem. He was haunted by the loss of his family home in Jerusalem and the evacuation of his family to Egypt when he was a child. I think he was hated precisely because he was so gifted. His was an eloquent voice for Palestinian sorrow. By personal choice he would have continued his studies of Conrad and the luminaries of American fiction. He took on Orientalism as an obligation to his people.

This comment pretty much sums up my whole complaint. You can’t possibly think that protests and murders are the same, but for some reason you want to conflate them here. Why is that?

Totally agree with everything you say here. But Smith is not describing rioters – he is describing protesters. Rice was responding to protesters and so is Smith, without qualification.

Yes, but just where were the plain protesters in the many Muslim countries where demonstrations were held? Where were the orderly marchers with placards, angry perhaps, but avoiding any breach of the law. Instead, as on every previous occasions, we have had riotous and even murderous platoons of anti-Western activists spurred on by hate-speaking demagogues. Beatrix has conflated protests and murders, but the kind of ‘protest’ we see leads all too easily to murder or other forms of physical attack.

brynababy says:

Oh, thank God, a voice of reason. The President spoke out strongly about the terrible violence and murders perpetrated by the so-callled protesters. This is a not so subtle attempt to criticize the President. It’s disgusting!

elixelx says:

@Dick M.
I take it you HAVEN’T read “Orientalism”!
If you ha you would never have written something as obsequious as “He took on Orientalism as an obligation to his people.’
No Sir, he took on Orientalism as a diatribe against the West, and of course Israel.
If Said really loved “his” people why not go and live among them?
No, the perennial victimhood of the “pals” is what he was interested in exploiting, and he succeeded in doing just that; and extending a local war into an excuse for worldwide jihad against his hosts!

elixelx says:

really? moviegoers are attacked and slaughtered by a philosophy student; a boy walking home behaving suspiciously is shot dead by a neighbourhood watchman; a disgruntled former employee comes back with a shotgun; an army major, a psychiarist, guns down his colleagues while they are eating…
Surely the theatre, the movie, the neighbourhood watch, the sense of grievance, the food, the canteen can’t possibly be thought to have had an effect on the violence that occurred…?
You DON’T want to conflate a good man’s death with a bad president’s lack of foresight.
BTW did you blame George Bush for the Twin Towers…?

julis123 says:

He was hated because his books were propaganda masquerading as scholarship.

stannadel says:

There have been lots of orderly protests, but the ones with disorder make for better pictures and hit the media.

I have read quite a few unfavorable reviews by movie critics about the ‘ 2016 Obama’s America ‘ documentary. But, I have yet to see any documentary by any movie producers praising Obama on how great a President he has been for the past 3 1/2 years. If any one knows of such a documentary playing nationwide, please let me know and I will buy the popcorn and soda for us while we watch this documentary. After viewing the documentary ‘ 2016 Obama’s America ‘ and witnessing Obama’a latest actions/comments about the killing on the US ambassador and Middle East rioting, it’s more evident that this documentary is becoming more credible than I initially thought.

The problem that you have with entire Middle East Intelligentsia establishment is that they have chosen Saidism over Benard Lewis’ realistic view of that part of the world. Saidism easily fits into the blame-the-west-mentality. Sadly this view is still so popular with the educators on college campuses (look at the new Palestine Department at Columbia dedicated to Said) and it is these “educated” people that run our foreign policy and intelligence services. Not until the establishment wakes up and rejects their own misguided education and recognizes how their view is paternalistic and akin to soft-racism will we still see a degenerating middle east and a more dangerous world.

yehoshua-quintin burbank says:

If the muslims are offended by remarks about mohamed and islam,then they should stop demeaning with out right lies about americans,jews,and christians.freedom of speech is the truest test democracy.That is something that has been missing in arab-mideast politics as well truth about the outside world.Suck it up and move on to more important matters.If you do not want people talking ill of mohamed,then do not talk ill of America or Israel.

Binyamin says:

Can you specify any context that would render such a statement “bizarre”?

Pam Green says:

See http://www.hirhome.com/islam/muslim_brotherhood_1.htm for an interesting discussion of Obama’s Cairo speech.

Beatrix17 says:

Jacob, you’re right. (I’m reading “One Palestine,
Complete” by Tom Segev right now, which deals with some of this
history). I gave a synopsis, even in cases where I knew some of the
detail, but historically, you sound exceptionally well read.

Jews used to be treated with contempt, and I think
Arabs feel that the West gave the Jews too much to make up for the
Holocaust, which the Arabs had nothing to do with.

Colonial control did affect the Arabs and I do think
the Jews have become surrogates for Mideastern hatred of the
colonists and of America. America threw Mosaddegh out of power in
Iran, which Iran won’t forgive. But the Mideast wants to be the
world’s big power which means outdoing the West, especially America.
Israel is target practice.

Beatrix17 says:

Do you have some historical citations for people who want to do additional reading?

Beatrix17 says:

It takes the heat of protests to work people into
such a frenzy that they would murder 4 people.

Not all protests lead to murder. Not all murders
require frenzy. These did

Beatrix17 says:

You’re talking about people with their own personal inner frenzy. These people don’t need outer encouragement. These kinds of people inevitably act alone.

Beatrix17 says:

They were American wars in the Mideast. I regret the
fact that Bush responded to a 21st century act of
terrorism with two 20th century style wars. But it was
2001, and we’d been attacked. The only precedent he had was Pearl
Harbor and so we went into Afghanistan the country that was harboring
the attackers.. Any President, Democratic of Republican would
probably have done the same.

Hussein did not have WMD, which Israel tried to tell
us. They had wiped out Iraq’s nuclear facilities in 1981. But Iraq
had invaded Kuwait, and America and the Arab league had fought back
against Hussein and won. We’d also heard horrible stories, all
true, about Hussein and his son’s behavior, and getting rid of a very
bad man seemed a legitimate reason to finish what we started.

Believing on top of that, as most people did,
that Hussein had WMD, I’ve never figured out why Obama voted against
the invasion

alaverbach says:

An interesting, even useful discussion, but founded on a
good deal of speculation —weak connectors and inferences that become
exaggerated as they go on:

“it seems Obama has
taken a page out of Edward Said’s Orientalism.”

“Obama . . . must
have been aware of the internationally famous Palestinian-American
professor”

“Accordingly, for the Obama Administration, it is almost inconceivable [i.e., given
that Said’s Orientalism must have influenced administration interpretation of
events] that last week’s demonstrations could have been about anything
other than something that we Americans did.”

“The Obama Administration failed them as well as Americans
when they missed an opportunity to make a robust defense of America’s
universal values. Instead, it was trying to placate a bloodthirsty mob by observing the intellectual strictures of
an English professor.” [Here, not “must have” but “did.”]

Also, one word very tip-toed:

“Two months from the presidential election, the White House
seems to be telling the electorate that one person’s unpleasant [scurrilous? hateful? the equivalent term for “anti-Semitic”
if it had been a representation of Moses?] representation of Islam and its
prophet is more significant than mobs rioting and burning American flags in
more than 20 countries.”

jacob_arnon says:

It isn’t true that the Arabs had nothing to do with it. They weren’t the central actors but they did play nasty bit roles like the Mufti of Jerusalem who spent the war years in Berlin urging the Nazis to kill every last Jew and did radio broadcasts to Arabs in the mid-east urging them to support Hitler.

In the early 1940′s there was an anti British uprising in Iraq were the Arabs installed a pro Hitler government.

The issue with Mossadegh is hypocritical because the Islamists would have killed him themselves had they gotten to him first. Mossadegh was a leftist secular leader; the type of man Islamists hate as much as they hate Jews.

AS for readings, there is too much material out there but one could do no better than to start with this:

http://dissentmagazine.org/democratiya/article_pdfs/d15Julius.pdf

“Une si longue presence: comment le mondearabe a perdu ses juifs 1947-1967″

by Nathan Weinstock, Plon, 2008, 358 pp.

by Lyn Julius

“The picture on the front cover of Nathan Weinstock’s book Une si longue presenceshows two barred windows. Through the window on the left, the sultan’s lions peerout. In the adjoining cage, the Jews of Fez.When the photograph was taken in 1912, the Jews were sheltering….”

The review article is ion English, btw.

jacob_arnon says:

First as I noted above he didn’t say that.

A context in which such a statement would be bizarre is if he were speaking as the President of the US and not as a private person.

As president he is supposed to fight negative stereotypes of all citizens (including White southerners) and not single out a single ethnic or religious group. As A private citizen he can say what he likes.

No one elected him to fight against Arab or Jewish or even Black stereotypes.

Let him speak out against bigotry when the occasion calls for and not just focus on Muslims.

dubiyarden says:

On Pacifica Radio today, Amy Goodman reported that Muslims held a peaceful protest in Kabul. A true Man Bites Dog news story . . .

To believe that the current generation of people interested and knowledgeable about the Arab East are a bunch of novitiates of the late Edward Said who expressed his views of “oriental studies” through the hurt pride of a people that once was the most civilized people but who, after the Turkish conquest of the area, became a civilizational backwater, is an overgeneralization of the first water.

I believe that the American diplomats in Cairo were justified in issuing a statement explaining that this so-called film was the act of individuals and certainly did not express any views of the United States. Of course, this message might not have been believed because of their utter inexperience living in a democratic state. The problem lies in the fact that many are incapable of comprehending a society where people are free to express ideas that are false, ugly, and inciting. The Arabs are a volatile people who, as a result, were goaded by extremist elements like the Salafists, Jihadists, and even Al Qaeda members.

In Libya, it has been determined that there were two attacks that only became one late in the progress of a demonstration that was evidently taken over by an armed group who succeeded in killing our diplomats. These two attacks were an insult to the U.S. and a great loss to the U.S. and also to the Arabs because of the particular devotion of the American Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens to the Libyan people and who was among the four Americans who died at the criminal hands of the extremists who dominated the demonstration through the use of weapons. The disgust of the Libyans at this criminal act was amply demonstrated by a demonstration 30,000 strong protesting the criminal activities that had such tragic results.

Just as there are extremist elements present in the Arab East after the changes that began over a little more than a year ago and is still in progress, there are extremist elements in the U.S. who want to beat an Anti-Arab drum like those involved in creating the disgusting portrayal of the most central figure in Islam and those who seek to justify their abuse of our first amendment rights. This is not to equate the actions of the idiots who created this stupid insult to Muslims with the tragic results that have so far resulted in the death of four Americans but also the death of Muslims in other countries where they constitute majorities.

Beatrix17 says:

I was here when it happened. I know that the
Arabs hated the Jews and some allied themselves with Hitler, but
they did not participate in setting up concentration camps and
killing Jews as Europeans did.

Norway and France had Nazi Governments. The
Germans didn’t know where to find the Jews in foreign
countries—the Europeans had to show them and European police
arrested them.
Owners of French railroads recently apologized to
French Jews for transporting them to concentration camps during
the war.

I saw Hitler try to send the Jews to Palestine,
and I saw England refuse them entrance. I remember the ship of
the damned. I saw every American and South American country
refuse to let the ship land and 80% of her passengers died in
concentration camps. There were only about 900 people on board,
but they were Jewish.
I remember one group of Israelis deliberately
blowing up a ship with another group of Jews coming to help
them,.
With all the European hatred of the Jews, Arabs
thought they were going to have smooth sailing. They still
haven’t gotten over the fact that these same antisemitic
countries set up Israel for the Jews. And that the Jews reached
out to Europe, not to the Arabs.
Mideastern hatred of the West could be the
eventual basis for Israel, Arabs, Turks, Persians to come
together, but the Arabs are probably right—Israel is too
Western

Now that we all have learned that “Mitt” in Gematria = 47%, this is all the bankrupt Right has left in its quiver–a new Birther Movement to demand that the President of the United States release his college transcripts to see if he took a class at Columbia in the 1980s with Edward Said? George Bush started two wars he never stopped and Barack Obama shot Osama bin Laden in the face. POTUS has my vote for 4 more years. God Bless America!

Beatrix17 says:

Fascinating article. English is the only language I really know.

jacob_arnon says:

To get over historical traumas you need have faith that you can take care of yourself and that what happened in the past won’t happen again.

The analogy between Black people in the US and American Indians is not valid because both peoples live in a country with strong laws which protects all its citizens.

This is not the case in the Middle East.

I also don’t believe that peoples get over historical traumas. If they are lucky (meaning that the event won’t be repeated, the Irish famine is one such example) they will be allowed in time to forget the original trauma.

In any case given the rise of antisemitism in Europe and the social instabilities in the mid East I don’t think Jews will be allowed to forget their traumas at the hands of the Europeans and Arabs any time soon.

jacob_arnon says:

The article has a French title, but is in English.

TalkbackZionism says:

Much of Said’s life story was falsified. Read Justus Reid Weiner’s expose of his life. His father left Jerusalem and moved to the United States before World War I. After the war he moved the family to Cairo where he had a business. It is true that Said was born in Jerusalem, but it was during a family visit. He grew up in Cairo and lived a very privileged life. He was not a refugee. Even the house where he was born was rented. It is all literary fiction and Said must have loved the irony of people believing his fabricated story. (See:
http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/991691/posts)

Binyamin says:

Given the centuries-long persecution of the Jews of Europe, culminating in the Holocaust, I can scarcely think of a less “bizarre” statement for any President of the United States to make, at any time, and in any forum.

Indeed, many Presidents, including Obama, have done just that.

When anyone, including a President, speaks our against racism against a particular group, such a statement is also an indictment of racism against every group.

That was the importance of Obama’s Cairo speech. Apparently, that is now seen as a threat to Israel. Perhaps Zionism truly has become a racist poison, in that it must use every means to justify a never-ending subjugation of the Palestinians.

Beatrix17 says:

The article was excellent.
I was thinking about the book you recommended in Spanish. In High
School, I did take Latin, though I’m not sure why since I didn’t
intend to become a priest.

Beatrix17 says:

Excellent points. You’re
definitely one of the most erudite posters on Tablet. (You’ve even
got me doing it. I don’t usually use the word erudite.)

To survive, though, Israel
has to learn from the past, see the good that resulted (a Jewish
nation) and let it go. In fact, we all have to do that, eventually.

This is not disagreeing
with what you say, but perhaps augmenting it.

Jennifer Read says:

Maybe he voted against it because he believed the real intelligence, not what W’s cronies made up? And that Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with 9/11, which was the only reason for our going into Afghanistan? Typically of W and Cheney, without a plan for getting out.

Beatrix17 says:

Hussein wasn’t in
Afghanistan, he was in Iraq, the country we had just been to war with
because they had invaded Kuwait. Are you saying Obama, an ordinary
Senator had access to intelligence that the President didn’t have?
Or that Bush and Cheney, being evil Republicans, told the nation
lies, while twisting their mustaches, and chortling cruelly, because
they were so anxious to go to war they didn’t care what they did to
create chaos?

The American, English, and
Italian intelligence all said Hussein had weapons of mass
destruction. No one lied. They simply made a mistake. The problem
was that our government listened to the world’s intelligence agencies
over Israel. All except Saint Obama, the all knowing, all wise, all
powerful on

Beatrix17 says:

US has strong laws and people who believer.in them. Maybe Israel has G-d? Just for protection, not for superiority.

jacob_arnon says:

There are some translations of Cervantes’ play. Here is one edition:

http://www.amazon.com/Bagnios-Algiers-Great-Sultana-Captivity/dp/0812222156/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1348356610&sr=1-2&keywords=cervantes%2C+plays

“The Bagnios of Algiers” and “The Great Sultana”: Two Plays of Captivity [Paperback]Miguel de Cervantes (Author), Barbara Fuchs (Translator), Miguel de Ilika (Translator)

Enjoy!

jacob_arnon says:

I would also recommend Cervantes’ play about “pura sangre” pure blood of old Christians, so called which he satirizes:

“El Retablo de las Maravillas / The Marvelous Playbill: A Comedy in One Act after Miguel Cervantes [Paperback]Tim Kelly (Author) ”

Some library would have a translation of this gem in which Cervantes takes on those OLD CHRISTIANS who think themselves purer than the recently forcibly converted Jews in 16th C Spain.

I found a Spanish version online perhaps you can get someone to translate it for you.

Otherwise try to find a translated copy in his one act plays.

Pam Green says:

Hi Jacob. I’ve tried to access the dissent magazine piece, but it won’t come up. Any ideas?

Pam Green says:

No, the significance of Obama’s 2009 Cairo speech was that, before the speech, he specifically requested that representatives from the Muslim Brotherhood be present, even though the MB was considered a radical-extremist-terrorist entity by the Egyptian government. The Mubarak regime had been trying to suppress the MB and here comes Obama, demanding that the MB be present for his speech, twisting Mubarak’s arm and telegraphing to the world what America’s future position would be in the event of a revolt. Obama interfered with the internal politics of that country in a way that signaled not only that America knew ahead of time that a revolt was coming but that it approved it and had pre-selected Mubarak’s replacement. THAT is what Obama did, without the foreknowledge or approval of Congress. And that the American mainstream media didn’t cover it only demonstrates how far the media has gone to throw the American people under the bus to protect Obama.

Binyamin says:

Thank you for that nugget of information, Pam. (If you have a link, I’d love to see it.)

If true, this raises my estimate of Barak Hussein Obama quite a bit.

jacob_arnon says:

Try this, Pam

GO to:

http://dissentmagazine.org/democratiya/?issue=24

Then look for this article

” On Weinstock on Dhimmitude and the Jews”Lyn Julius

In the Winter 08 issue.

jacob_arnon says:

Try this, Pam

GO to:

http://dissentmagazine.org/democratiya/?issue=24

Then look for this article

” On Weinstock on Dhimmitude and the Jews”Lyn Julius

In the Winter 08 issue.

jacob_arnon says:

“When anyone, including a President, speaks out against racism directed at a particular group, such as Muslims or Arabs, such a statement is also an indictment of racism against every group.”

Muslims are not a racial group, nor are they an ethnic group.

The Muslims in Nigeria and the Muslims in Indonesia do not belong to the same “race.”

Nor do the Muslims in Somalia and the Muslims in Chad belong to the same ethnic group.

Finally Islam is a proud civilization with a billion members. In no way shape or from do they constitute a minority.

Get your facts right before you venture opinions, Binyamin. .

“That was the importance of Obama’s Cairo speech. Apparently, this is now seen as a threat to Israel. Perhaps Zionism truly has become a racist poison, in that it must use every means to justify a never-ending subjugation of the Palestinians.”

There was much more to the Cairo speech than that.

You have posted elsewhere anti-Zionists comments, This is you starting point and not a conclusion you come to by way of argument.

jacob_arnon says:

“If true, this raises my estimate of Barak Hussein Obama quite a bit.”

This Binyamin’s true beliefs. He is a pro-Islamist antisemite.

Pam Green says:

Here’s something especially for you, brynababy, and for any other posters who claim to support Israel yet also support Obama:

“Khabar Online, close to Parliamentary Speaker Ali Larijani reports Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi’s comments in his meeting with Foreign Minister Salehi that “no problem exists between Iran and Egypt”. During their meeting in Cairo Salehi expressed the “warm greetings” of President Ahmadienajd, and thanked Morsi for his attendance of the Non-Aligned Movement summit in Tehran. Salehi also congratulated the president on the “victory of the revolution of the Egyptian people”. According to the report, Morsi reciprocated and asked the Iranian Foreign Minister to offer his “warm greetings” to the Supreme Leader and President Ahmadinejad.
Salehi also expressed Iran’s readiness for cooperation with the Egyptian government on the development of Egypt’s industrial infrastructure, adding that the two countries “complement one another”.

Pam Green says:

Thanks Jacob. I found it but still can’t open it. I can open the current articles. Maybe there’s something wrong with my Adobe Reader program? I hope I figure it out. The article looks interesting.

CWLsun says:

Just a note on whether or not Pres. Obama took a course from Edward Said:

The following transcript of Mr. McArthur’s speech mentions that David Remmick’s book “The Bridge” makes a claim that in his senior year at Columbia, Barack Obama took a course from Edward Said.

Columbia College Class Day
by John R McArthur [publisher of Harper's magazine]
May 15, 2012

http://harpers.org/archive/2012/05/hbc-90008620

Mitt is 59 in gematria and that’s the victory he will receive percentage wise.

Ben Silverstein says:

“… the Israeli government’s actions toward the Palestinians awaken horrific memories of my family’s experiences under Hitlerism: the inhuman walls, the checkpoints, the daily humiliations, killings, diseases, the systematic deprivation. There’s no escaping the fact that Israel has occupied the entire country of Palestine, and taken most of the land, while the Palestinians have been expelled, walled off, and deprived of human rights and human dignity.” – Holocaust survivor Suzanne Weiss

Ben Silverstein says:

The 1948 self-declaration of “Israel” involved one of the largest forced migrations in history. Around a million people were expelled from their homes at gunpoint, civilians were massacred & 531 Palestinian villages destroyed. Denied for over 6 decades had it happened today it could only have been called “ethnic cleansing”. A central plank in founding of “Israel” was removal of the indigenous population. That strategy of ethnic cleansing continues to the present day.

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