The Many Deceits of Edward Said

July 11 2019

Few thinkers have had so enormous an impact on the humanities as Edward Said, an English professor whose 1978 book Orientalism argued that all Western scholarship of the Middle East—indeed, all European writing about the Islamic world—was inherently suspect, reflecting only stereotypes and fantasies. Accompanying this argument was vituperation against Israel, to which Said dedicated much of his subsequent public life, inspiring multiple generations of academic Israel-haters. William D. Rubinstein examines Said’s distortions and tortured logic:

[I]n films and popular culture, every identifiable group is depicted initially in stereotypical terms: upper-class Englishmen are depicted as plummy-voiced toffs, American army sergeants as martinets, Australians as beer-swilling ockers from the outback. So what? But Said presents only the most negative views of the Islamic world as representative of its depiction in the mainstream West, ignoring any more positive views.

[For instance], the academic and scholarly “orientalists” who wrote about the Islamic world between about 1750 and 1940 were seldom hostile to Islam or to Muslim culture; quite the opposite. Typical was Gottlieb Leitner (1840–99), born in Budapest to Jewish parents who became Protestants. Leitner lived in India and was a renowned linguist. . . . In 1889 he published a pamphlet, Muhammedism, which defended Islam against its critics, and, in the same year, established the Woking Mosque in Surrey, the first mosque in Britain.

Dozens of other scholars and anthropologists throughout the West, normally termed “orientalists,” were highly sympathetic to Islam and its culture. These scholars were ignored in Said’s works, as were modern scholars who studied the politics, economy, and religious culture of the Islamic world in a serious way.

It appears that Said became an ardent supporter of the Palestinian cause and, by extension, of the Islamic world, following the 1967 Six-Day War between Israel and the Arabs. At the time, Israel enjoyed the virtually unanimous support of the Western world’s left intelligentsia. . . . Said effectively—and, it seems, deliberately—provided scholarly backing for the reverse of this former consensus, and for whitewashing the culture and lifestyles of the Islamic world.

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Read more at Quadrant

More about: Academic Boycotts, Anti-Zionism, Edward Said, Islam

Don’t Let Iran Go Nuclear

Sept. 29 2022

In an interview on Sunday, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan stated that the Biden administration remains committed to nuclear negotiations with the Islamic Republic, even as it pursues its brutal crackdown on the protests that have swept the country. Robert Satloff argues not only that it is foolish to pursue the renewal of the 2015 nuclear deal, but also that the White House’s current approach is failing on its own terms:

[The] nuclear threat is much worse today than it was when President Biden took office. Oddly, Washington hasn’t really done much about it. On the diplomatic front, the administration has sweetened its offer to entice Iran into a new nuclear deal. While it quite rightly held firm on Iran’s demand to remove the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps from an official list of “foreign terrorist organizations,” Washington has given ground on many other items.

On the nuclear side of the agreement, the United States has purportedly agreed to allow Iran to keep, in storage, thousands of advanced centrifuges it has made contrary to the terms of the original deal. . . . And on economic matters, the new deal purportedly gives Iran immediate access to a certain amount of blocked assets, before it even exports most of its massive stockpile of enriched uranium for safekeeping in a third country. . . . Even with these added incentives, Iran is still holding out on an agreement. Indeed, according to the most recent reports, Tehran has actually hardened its position.

Regardless of the exact reason why, the menacing reality is that Iran’s nuclear program is galloping ahead—and the United States is doing very little about it. . . . The result has been a stunning passivity in U.S. policy toward the Iran nuclear issue.

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Iran nuclear deal, Joseph Biden, U.S. Foreign policy