Gil Anidjar, serial liar

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Gil Anidjar

Yesterday we met Gil Anidjar, a professor at Columbia University who’s famous for his so-called “Hate” course. In 2005, Hugh Fitzgerald wrote that the “Hate” course was about two things. First, Europe’s creation of “the Other” in two forms, Arab and Jew. Second, Europe’s persecution of “inoffensive Arabs” and Jews, which, in Anidjar’s view, is the root cause of all current tensions between those two groups. “In other words,” wrote Fitzgerald, “Jew and Arab are equally victims – not of each other, except insofar as each ‘creates’ the other in imitation of the ur-villain Europe, that has ‘created’ both Jew and Arab as the enemy. In Gil Anidjar’s world, European history is replete with hatred – equal hatred – and persecution – equal persecution – of the Jew and of the Arab. This equality in suffering is central to his world view.”

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Columbia University

As Fitzgerald pointed out, the only problem with Anidjar’s concept of Jews and Arabs as equal victims of European prejudice is outrageously ahistorical. The Jews, a non-violent people, were in fact unfair victims, subjected to more than a millennium of hatred and oppression while trying to live peaceful lives in the midst of European societies. By contrast, the Arabs, “or rather the Muslims,” were an outside force, an enemy, that persisted in waging war against Europe “until finally Muslim power came to an end in 1492” in Iberia and 1683 in the Balkans.

Fitzgerald reminds us, moreover, that “for a thousand years, Arab raiders went up and down the coasts, not only on the Mediterranean, but as far north as Ireland and Iceland, and razed and looted whole villages, and kidnapped…about 1 million white Europeans (and killed many more) who were taken back to North Africa, enslaved, and forcibly converted.” Jews did no such things, needless to say.

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Ramallah, West Bank

Fitzgerald writes that Anidjar “fails to understand the threat that Muslims continued to pose, for roughly a thousand years, through these raiding and slaving expeditions,” all of them “impelled by the doctrine of jihad-conquest that is in Qur’an, hadith, and sira.” During those thousand-odd years, while Muslims were aggressors, Jews were universally victims of aggression. In Europe, they were tormented and oppressed by Christians; in the Maghreb and the Levant, including their own Holy Land, Muslim armies conquered Jewish communities in the same way that they conquered Christian communities, subjecting the inhabitants to slaughter, enslavement, or the systematic subordinate status known as dhimmitude. Is Anidjar, as Fitzgerald suggests, unaware of all this? We suspect not. Anidjar, we believe, is fully aware of all this history, and has chosen to replace the historical facts with his own fantasies in order to present Christian Europeans exclusively as colonial oppressors, to present historical Jews as the victims solely of Christian Europeans, to present modern Jews as calculating characters who, in the name of self-preservation, have sold out their own heritage in order to identify with the Western imperialists, and to present Arabs and Muslims as pure victims, then and now.  

In short, Anidjar is selling an outrageous set of historical whoppers – in Fitzgerald’s words, “a fiction, an ideological hippogriff, created only so that ‘the Arab’ may claim for himself, at the hands of Europe, a false victimhood, based on the real victimhood of Jews.” It is this set of lies that Anidjar has made a career of spreading throughout his tenure at Columbia University. That his propagandizing should be allowed to go by the name of teaching is nothing less than a disgrace; and that any of this should be happening at what is widely considered a great American university all but beggars belief.

Gil Anidjar: Ph.D. in hate

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Gil Anidjar

Last week we med Hamid Dabashi, a professor of Iranian Studies at Columbia University who – well, just scroll down and you’ll see what he’s been up to over the years. Today we’re moving on to one of his colleagues in Columbia’s Department of Middle East and Asian Languages and Cultures (MEALAC). His name: Gil Anidjar.

Anidjar’s anti-Israel credentials are manifold. In 2009, he took part in a pro-Palestinian “teach-in” that called for “divestment from the Israeli occupation.” In 2014, he joined several other prominent professors of Middle Eastern Studies (including Dabashi) in pledging to boycott Israeli institutions of higher education.

From time to time, Anidjar has taught a course called “Hate.” The course’s premise is that European history can be understood as nothing more or less than a series of persecutions of “The Other,” notably Jews and Arabs, and that these persecutions are responsible for the hostility between those two groups.

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Columbia University

To analyze the relationship between Jews and Arabs in this manner, of course, is to reduce all relationships between non-Western cultures to – and to blame all the problems in those relationships on – Western imperialism and colonialism. This is, needless to say, a thoroughly ahistorical way of explaining the relationship of Jews and Arabs, or, if you will, Judaism and Islam. It erases the destructive role of violent Islamic conquest during the immediate post-Mohammedan era, which in today’s academy is (shall we say) an unwelcome topic, and replaces it with a generic, academically acceptable Orientalism on the part of Europeans.

Anidjar has also taught a class called “Semites: Race, Religion, Literature.” In it, he argues that Arabs are “the last Semites and the only Semites,” which is basically a slick way of trying to delegitimize Israel. Anidjar further argues that while Arab Muslims are still attached to their religion, Jews “have in fact become Western Christians,” and have thereby wiped out their own religious and ethnic identity – thus rendering them undeserving of their own nation.

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Jerusalem

What, then, to make of Israel? Isn’t it the ancient homeland of the Jews? Well, not as far as Anidjar is concerned. In his view, it’s nothing more or less than “a colonial enterprise, a colonial settler state.” In other words, an outpost of Europe, an inappropriate Western incursion into Arab territory.

By contrast, Anidjar fully rejects the idea that there’s anything whatsoever wrong with Islam: “Can anyone seriously claim,” he asks, “that the problem with Islamic countries is Islam?” While pressuring Columbia University to divest itself of any financial connections to Israel, Anidjar has urged his colleagues and students to align themselves more strongly with the Palestinian cause.

There’s more. In 2005, Hugh Fitzgerald wrote a savvy piece about Anidjar’s notorious “Hate” course. We’ll get to that tomorrow.