Columbia University Professor Popular in Germany for Hating Israel, Downplaying Holocaust
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 German 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 has become known for several antisemitic scandals 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.”
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 the need of Germans 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), Dirk Braunstein 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 recent scholarship, 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 for Campus Watch, a project of the Middle East Forum.