Chip off the old block: Saree Makdisi

Saree Makdisi

This week we’ve been hopping from one West Coast college campus to another, taking brief meetings with some of the Golden State’s more unsavory academic anti-Semites. Today and tomorrow we’ll be spending a bit more time with a particularly prominent member of that breed, namely Saree Makdisi, a UCLA professor of English and Comparative Literature.

Edward Said

Makdisi just so happens to be a nephew of Edward Said – the late Columbia University superstar who came up with the idea of delegitimizing Western scholars of Arabic, Middle Eastern, or Asian culture by accusing them of “Orientalism.” Makdisi is a chip off the old block. As he explains on his own page at the UCLA website, he writes about “the crossroad of several different fields, including British Romanticism, imperial culture, colonial and postcolonial theory and criticism, and the cultures of urban modernity particularly the revision and contestation of changed urban spaces, including London, Beirut and Jerusalem.”

A “changed urban space”: a car bomb in Beirut

That last part is particularly interesting. Talk about euphemism: “the revision and contestation of changed urban spaces.” Such as the Muslim takeover of the East End, the violent expulsion of Jews and Christians from Beirut, and the concerted effort by Palestinian Muslims and their activist academic allies to deny that Jerusalem was, indeed, the ancient capital and holy city of the Jewish people.

Makdisi is himself one of those mendacious souls who deny flat-out that Jews have any historical connection whatsoever to Judea and Samaria. A leader of the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement, he calls Israel an “apartheid state,” accuses it of deliberately trying to stunt the grown of children in Gaza, and has promoted as authentic those staged “Pallywood” videos in which Palestinians pretend to be abused or killed by Israelis. On his Twitter feed, he alternates between defending Muslims – terrorists included – and demonizing Jews, Israel, and America.

Emergency services at the scene of the Manchester bombing

After the terrorist attack on the Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, he banged out several tweets implying that the murders of those girls were motivated by – and presumably even justified by – American and British actions in the Middle East. Two examples:

Saree Makdisi‏ @sareemakdisi May 31

They” hate “our” values, eh? (a) what values? (b) connect the dots between violent foreign policy & domestic blowback.

Saree Makdisi‏ @sareemakdisi May 31

Car bombs in Baghdad and Kabul and yet more US indiscriminate murder of civilians in Yemen, Syria, Iraq. Connect the dots to Manchester.

He also writes regularly for several anti-Semitic websites, and has also had a number of op-eds in the Los Angeles Times, all of them about Israel and the Palestinians. In them, he’s called on Americans to boycott Israeli schools, accused Israel of a “policy of erasure,” and denied that anti-Semitism is anti-Semitism.

Helen Thomas

Some of his L.A. Times op-eds deserve special attention. In one of them, published in 2010, he defended notorious remarks that had recently been made in an interview by the Lebanese-American White House reporter Helen Thomas. The Israeli Jews, Thomas said, should “get the hell out of Palestine.” Thomas added: “Remember these people [Palestinians] are occupied. It’s their land. It’s not Poland, it’s not Germany.” When asked by her interviewer what the Jews in Israel should do, she said: “They should go home. Poland. Germany….. And America. And everywhere else.” Makdisi, being as slick a customer as his uncle, defended Thomas in a cagey way, with sentences like this: “One does not have to agree with Thomas to note that her remark spoke to the ugly history of colonialism, racism, usurpation and denial that are at the heart of the question of Palestine.” No, her remarks spoke to the bigotry of a nasty old woman who refuses to accept that there have always been Jews in the Levant, and that Israel, not Poland or Germany, is indeed their ancestral home.

More tomorrow.

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