[This past Monday the 11th, the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard hosted Columbia University's Joseph Massad for a lecture entitled, "Desiring Arabs: Orientalism and Sexual Rights." Our own Hillel Stavis was on hand and files this report.]
Fresh off the news from the rumor mill that he had lost his bid for tenure at Columbia University, Joseph Massad, unembarrassed, held forth at Harvard this week. His introducer, Sara Roy, apparently also unembarrassed, having been caught in the preposterous allegation that Israel was withholding daily 680,000 tons of flour from Gazans (doing her simple math reveals that every Gazan uses a half ton of flour daily - obesity and potential bodily explosions would no doubt ensue) was all hugs and kisses as she presented Edward Said's keeper of the flame of Orientalism.
And so, here we have, arguably, the world's most prestigious university providing a forum for Mr. Massad, whose two central theories are:
1) That Zionism itself produces Anti-Semitism as a result of its theoreticians' essentialist self-hatred.
2) That the gay rights movement is a stalking horse for the western imperialism, creating gays and lesbians in Arab lands where they had never existed.
If number two reminds you more than a bit of Iran's Ahmadinejad's bizarre claim made at Mr. Massad's university last year that there were no homosexuals in Iran, you're right. Propelled by his role as jihad-enabler and trying to out-stupid the mullahs, Joe Massad has convinced The University of Chicago Press to publish his book, Desiring Arabs.
Imagine our surprise when Edward Said's disciple tells us that a corollary of the pet "colonialism/imperialism/orientalism" theory, in its relentless and racist "observations" of the Arab world, has infected that world with homosexuality. That's right - merely by observing and commenting! All those millions of Arab men and women for 1400 years, untainted by homoerotic desires, have been propelled into homosexuality by dreaded "orientalism".
What a head - spinner for the university crowd in attendance! NB: No self-respecting college student would even entertain a single homophobic thought let alone publicly espouse one. But of course, "Palestinianism" and its corollary, Israel -hatred (now rapidly morphing into Jew hatred) trumps everything, including PC views on homosexuality.
As I glanced around the room during Massad's disjointed and tortuously pedantic delivery, several younger women began to squirm, obviously confused by the default sympathy they felt for their "Palestinian" professor and the cognitive dissonance they were experiencing by his you'd -better -not -even- think- of -commenting- on -Arab -sexuality -argument in the face of endemic homophobia and violence against homosexuals in the Arab and Muslim world.
Eventually, a number of women exited the hall, whipsawed by Massad's baroque literary allusions, with the requisite name-dropping of Foucault and Derrida and his sly apologetics for same-sex hating cultures.
Massad fleshed out the theme of his book from an essay he wrote in 2002 for Public Culture entitled "Re-Orienting Desire: The Gay International and the Arab World," identifying (surprise) the United States and Israel as the chief conspirators in corroding Arab and Muslim societies (without, of course, mentioning the fact that Israel is the sole country in the region that accepts Arab gays and lesbians).
But of all the unsettling themes he tossed out, the one that drew the most eye-rolls from the faithful was his absurd declaration that honor killings in the Arab world were the equivalent of "crimes of passion" in the West. Let's see now: Honor killings: sacralized and sanctioned in the Arab and Muslim world for the most part. "Crimes of Passion" i.e. Murder in the Western world: a serious crime carrying severe penalties. A perfect equivalency for Professor Massad.
The usual anti-Israel suspects were in attendance, including one gentleman who, during the Q & A, sought to impress Massad by noting the barbarity of "male genital mutilation" (Jewish brit milah) as a rejoinder to the practice of clitorectomy widespread in the Arab and Muslim world. Not content with agreeing with this other ridiculous equivalency, he sought to remind the audience that "there were people in the room" who were male victims of such mutilation - a clumsy swipe at Jews of course. When I reminded him that for every Jewish male that is circumcised 10,000 Muslim males undergo a similar procedure (except that rather than performed at 8 days for Jews, Muslims undergo circumcision from between 8 to 13 years of age), he became worried that he might have offended the Muslims in the room!
There were remarkably few questions during the Q&A, but I recognized Joachim (get all those Ashkenazis!) Martillo who proceeded to ramble on incoherently for nearly 5 minutes on Jewish male effeminacy, "regendering" and lots more arcane topics that were clearly obsessing him.
Cutting Massad more slack than he deserved, a woman gently suggested that his theories might be contributing to the woman-hating culture of the Middle East. He did the waltz around and exited to the applause of the audience.
Whatever happened to those college degrees you could get from the back of matchbooks?