Oriental ’Orientalists’ and the US Unchanged Policies
By Elham Hashemi
Media outlets have been trying to anticipate and predict the new Biden Administration’s performance in terms of US domestic and international politics, with much focus on the nuclear deal with Iran known as the JCPOA.
Articles and Op-eds praised the quick reversal of his predecessor’s decisions such as the reversal of the ‘Muslim Ban’, which may seem like a sign of goodwill. He seems to be giving his administration a façade of diversity which is impressive to the public opinion at least.
But people of different color and race in the new administration is not necessarily a good thing. If those placed in power do not represent the popular opinions of the communities they come from then it is to no avail. The appointing of Kamala Harris, as the first woman of color to hold the position of Vice President, does nothing unless she is willing to create real change for women of color.
Also pointing an American-Palestinian, Maher Bitar to a position co-ordinating the stream of information coming in from the US intelligence apparatus does not necessarily mean Biden will retreat from supporting the Israeli apartheid regime.
According to a report published by the Politico last Friday, Bitar, who served as general counsel to Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee and played an important role in former president Donald Trump’s first impeachment, will assume the post of senior director for intelligence on Mr. Biden’s National Security Council.
The designation of the high-profile Arab-American lawyer to a prominent White House position co-ordinating the stream of information that pours in from the vast US intelligence apparatus and Kamala Harris sounds like Biden has decided to use the “oriental orientalists” to help him push his US policies forward.
The Joe Biden website reads “Joe knows how we treat Muslim-Americans and prioritize issues affecting them reflects who we are as nation. As President, he will: protect Muslim-American constitutional and civil rights; honor the diversity of Muslim-American communities; ensure adequate healthcare; create a safe learning environment; rebuild our economy with a more resilient, more inclusive middle class; and make communities safer.” But these remain to be words of publicity and an exploitation to the American diversity unless serious steps are made and new policies are made in terms of dealing with the “East”.
Why should the reversal of the “Muslim Ban” matter when the US is helping destroy many of the Muslim countries on that list? The halting of the border wall is maybe perceived as move of good will too, but wouldn’t it be great and more real if the United States was to also halt its policies which help create many of the refugees trying to find a better life in the United States?
The US Biden administration is different from the Trump administration, probably only in stopping the US staunch support for Saudi Arabia’s war on Yemen. It may arrive to a deal with Iran too on its nuclear program, but simultaneously without addressing the nuclear war heads Israel possesses or the violence and breach of law against other states.
"Orientalism," as Edward Said wrote, is "a Western style for dominating, restructuring, and having authority over the Orient."
The result of this attitude and these policies? A culture in which the Middle East is seen as a playground and a subject for exploration, rather than a region of equal worth and value as the West. This was what the Palestinian-American intellectual and professor Edward Said observed in much detail in his famed book Orientalism, over fifty years ago.