The nature of the present crisis in Iran Chris Cutrone Confusion on the Left around the 2009 electoral crisis in Iran has been expressed both in defense of President Ahmadinejad's claim to victory as well as by support of Iranian dissidents and protesters. Slavoj Žižek has weighed in, questioning prevailing understandings of the nature of the Iranian regime and its Islamist character. Responses to the current crisis have recapitulated problems on the Left in understanding the Islamic Revolution since 1979. All share in attributing to Iran an autonomous historical rhythm or logic of its own, rather than as a symptomatic effect of a greater history. Žižek has come closest to addressing this issue of greater context, but even he has failed to address the history of the Left.
On Thursday April 16 Platypus Review Editor-in-Chief Spencer A. Leonard interviewed the prominent historian and Columbia University professor Ervand Abrahamian on “Radical Minds” broadcast on UChicago WHPK-FM 88.5 on the subject of “30 years of Islamic Revolution in Iran.” Abrahamian kindly agreed to answer some further questions put to him by the Platypus Review to supplement that interview. Included below is an edited transcript of the original interview together with the answers Abrahamian gave to our supplemental questions.
The contours of the present day Middle East have been shaped by a mid -20th century triptych of genocide and ethnic cleansing. The first panel in this triptych is the “Holocaust” (“Shoah” in Hebrew, “Khurbn” in Yiddish) the systematic murder of approximately two-thirds of European Jewry by the Nazis in 1941–1945. The second panel is the ethnic cleansing of Palestine by the Zionists in 1947–1949, the “Nakba,” and the third panel which does not have a commonly accepted name is the forced exodus of hundreds of thousands of Mizrachi Jews from Arab countries, most of whom ended up in Israel where they strengthened the Zionist state in crucial ways even though frequently they encountered racial discrimination there at the hands of Ashkenazi Jews. Each of these catastrophes was both a product of the failure of the Left and paved the way for further defeats.
My first impression upon entering Haseeb Ahmed’s installation, “The Common Sense,” which opened at Around the Coyote Gallery on September 5th was one of open space. It was an openness that contrasted sharply with the hundreds of paintings, photographs, sculptures that cluttered the rest of the many other galleries that opened that Night in Wicker Park’s FlatIron Building.