Wie (manche) Konferenzen zustande kommen

Ich habe meine Erkenntnisse zu Hossein Derakhshan (alias Hoder) nicht fuer mich behalten: Gestern schickte ich e-mails an die Redaktionen von Ha’aretz und Jerusalem Post und bat um Weiterleitung an die Journalisten, Meron Rappaport bzw. Abrahm Rabinovich. Von da habe ich seither nichts gehoert.

Ich schrieb auch an Prof. Yoram Meital, der die Konferenz „Reform, Resistance and Conflicts in the Middle East“ organisiert hatte, machte ihn auf meine Erkenntnisse aufmerksam und frage, ob der Hintergrund von Hossein Derakhshan eigentlich geprueft worden waere, bevor man ihn zur Konferenz einlud.

Seine Antwort kam umgehend und ueberraschte mich etwas:

Thanks for taking the time and sharing all this with me. Hossein might be a controversial persona among some blogers, but this non of my business. He was invited to deliver a lecture in my conference and his presentation was found by most participants useful for understanding political blogoshere in the Middle East. I am truly do not interested in most of ‚domestic‘ fights between blogers. Only recently I have became familiar with the role of the personal context of most of the comments sent to me. I was disappointed by this.

Thanks again, and I look forward to seeing you in our future events,

Ich fragte nach, auf welcher Grundlage er zu einer Diagnose einer persoenlichen Feindschaft zwischen Bloggern gekommen sei, da ja meine Bedenken alle auf Texte zurueckgehen, die nachpruefbar auf Hoder’s eigenem Blog veroeffentlicht sind. Ich bekam nur noch

Ruth, thanks again for sharing all this with me. I have nothing to add.

zur Antwort, worauf ich ihm auch einen schoenen Tag wuenschte.

Parallel hatte ich an Lisa von On the face geschrieben, da sie Hoder vor einem Jahr nach Israel gebracht, bei sich aufgenommen und ausfuehrlich darueber in ihrem Blog geschrieben hatte.

Von ihr erhielt ich folgende Auskunft (sie hat mir ausdruecklich die Erlaubnis erteilt, sie zu zitieren):

The story of how Hossein was invited to the conference is quite banal, and rather typical of academic conferences: Mike Dahan, a professor at Sapir College, met Hossein at a conference in Cairo that was held on 26 July 2006. Mike and I do not know each other, although we have mutual acquaintances. I understand that he was fired from more than one university for poor research; via Google, you will discover that he has been accused of plagiarism; he also writes for Counterpunch, which should tell you all you need to know about his worldview and intellect. Mike Dahan recommended Hossein to Prof. Yoram Meital, who chaired the conference.

I spoke with Prof. Meital on the phone shortly before the conference; he told me that he knew nothing about Hossein, and that he had based his decision to invite him solely on „the recommendation of colleagues.“ When I asked if he was aware that Hossein has zero credibility in the Persian blogosphere, that he has written extensively in defense of Iran’s nuclear weapons program and that he has systematically attacked Iranian intellectuals who were jailed and tortured for speaking out against the regime, Prof. Meital told me that he neither knew nor cared about these things – Hossein had been invited to talk about the Iranian blogosphere, and that was what he would talk about; his political opinions were irrelevant. Although our conversation ended cordially, Prof. Meital accused me at the beginning of nursing a personal antipathy toward Hossein, even though I gave him a factual account of Hossein’s background, together with specific examples of articles he has written for the Washington Post blog and Open Democracy.

My friend Carmel wrote a short piece about the conference for Nana (link here); she also posted a video recording of excerpts from each of the three panelists‘ talks. As you will see, each of the panelists spread disinformation – whether intentionally or not.

Hossein claimed that there are about 700,000 Iranian blogs, when in fact less than 10 percent of them are active; he also said that the Internet in Iran is far more open than it actually is – for example, he did not mention that a recently passed law requires Iranians to register their blog with the government (link to BBC article here).

The Egyptian speaker , Mohamed Abdel Aziz, made the outrageous claim that there are only about 100 bloggers in his country, that they all belong to the Cairo elite and that he knows them all. Iin fact there are more than 6,000, they are spread all over the country and come from a variety of socio-economic backgrounds, and only one of them knows the Egyptian speaker. I translated the article for a friend who is a prominent Egyptian blogger – he exposed the story on his blog and started a petition that was signed by a number of Egyptian bloggers (links here, here and here; the third link includes an apology from Prof. Meital).
Mike Dahan pompously stated that most Israeli blogs were personal diaries by 14 year-olds. I don’t know how he even dared to make this preposterous statement – but there it is, he did. Anyone with basic intelligence and minimal Internet skills can prove the fallacy of that statement with about 10 minutes of online research.

So what does this all mean? Nothing new, I think: a group of narcissistic, pompous, ignorant men thought it would be a great idea to invite one another to a conference, where they would proceed to talk nonsense to a small audience – in exchange for a little funding, fawning attention and some free meals. The saddest thing is that all this could have been avoided if Prof. Meital had just taken the time to consult with a couple of female academics at Ben Gurion University who wrote their PhD dissertations on Internet community building and the blogosphere. But he did not even know they existed.

Mein Eindruck ist, dass Lisas Einschaetzung zutrifft, wobei ich einschraenken muss, dass die Blogger natuerlich nur ein kleiner Teil des ganzen Programms darstellten und dieser Teil vielleicht auch, weil er als nebensaechlich betrachtet wurde, nachlaessig vorbereitet wurde.

7 Antworten

  1. Lisa apparently were not thinking like that when she was hosting Hossein, to get some press. But when she didn’t, apparently, Hossein has become the most evil man on earth. Interesting.

  2. Oh, and in terms of credibility, I have to add something:

    Hoder has started this whole blogging revolution in Iran, has introduced podcasting, RSS, and many other technologies to Iranians, has single-handedly organized loud and effective campaigns to protest against online censorship and the arrest of online journalists.

    His own blog has been filtered in Iran and he himself was harassed the last time he was in Iran.

    And even before all this, he was the first journalist in Iran who was tirelessly advocating the use of Internet. No one forgets his constant encouragement and push for other journalists to work with email and publish their email addresses on the newspaper.

    He has risked his life by starting the Iran-Israel friendship project to save Iran from the right-wing Israelis and radical Iranians such as Ahmadinejad.

    He has a big following in Iran and only his malling list has over 12,000 subscribers, plus nearly 10,000 people who visit his blog everyday.

    I wonder how Lisa Goldman, who doesn’t even dare publishing these things on her own blog, with her Zero knowledge of Persian has reach to the conclusion that Hoder has zero credibility in the Persian blogosphere. Although, even with a limited English, she could have easily found out about these facts.

  3. Ali,

    I got suspicious when I read what Hoder wrote. What sort of explantion do you offer for his whitewashing of the Iranian regime both with regards to the oppression of students‘ protests and the situation of women? This is my question and nothing else.

  4. Have you read the original pieces based on which Lisa is painting Hoder as the Islamic Republic apologist?

    The student movement he’s opposed to is a pro-American group, whose key members have joined neo-con think-tanks, boycotted elections in Iran, and even advocating for overthrow of the democratic regime. Read it:

    Hoder has explicitly said he is opposed to any foreign intervention for regime-change, and he has been quite consistent in that sense. While he has repeatedly defended and helped attempts by the reformist women rights groups to improve things for women, he has opposed to those with ties to American „pro-democracy“ groups. Read this:

    Since he has started his Iran-Israel friendship project, a few individuals such as Lisa Goldman, Arash Kamangir, and Nikahang Kowsar have started a campaign to discredit him. Have you also seen this:

  5. Ali or should I call you Mehrdad http://kamangir.wordpress.com/2007/01/26/silence-of-the-crowd-or-how-fake-activism-thrives/
    or just Hoder?

    You just refer to your texts and positions and yes, I have read them. This does not answer my question.

    You are whitewashing the Iranian regime’s oppression of student protests. Obviously you feel that the goal justifies the means. The goal in this case being suppressing any pro-American viewpoint or organisation and the means including crackdowns, arrests, and torture. This is exactly what I have understood from your texts and this is why I feel that you might be accepting bribes from the Iranian regime. After all, what exactly is the difference between your position and their’s?

  6. Call me anything you want. Hoder has never defended violating anyone’s basic human rights. You could read it if your sources were his actual blog posts in Persian, not Lisa Goldman who has personal issues with him and doesn’t know Persian either.

    Hoder has publicly dismissed any Iranian group or individual who helps or co-operates with the so-called „pro-democracy“ American organizations.

    He has written a long post in Persian on why he is even opposed to a non-violent overthrow of the current regime, despite his own problems with the Islamic Republic over his blog that has led to his blog being filtered in Iran and his detention and harassment in Tehran in 2005. Get someone to translate it for you:

    Or you can read an excerpt:
    „Non-violent regime change in Iran is morally wrong and practically impossible. It’s wrong because the Islamic Revolution is a progressing semi-democratic system which in many aspects has been more successful than Iran under the Shaah. And it’s wrong because regime change needs an agent and the U.S. as the only candidate seriously lacks legitimacy to do so. Islamic Republic does not keep prisoners in Guantanamo, has not bombed civilians with nuclear weapons, has not invaded other countries for bogus reasons.“

    By the way, with the same argument, one can easily accuse you and Lisa of being bribed by the Intelligence Ministry in Iran, since you’re discrediting Hoder to undermine his Iran-Israel friendship project. He has described his project’s enemies here:

  7. Ali (I“ll use the pseudonym you have chosen for yourselves),

    Do you mean to tell me that not Hoder but somebody else is writing the English blog in his name?! As far as I know his English should be good enough.

    My unfavourable impression of Hossein Derakhshan is primarily based on his own text: „On Daftar-eTahkim Vahdat (Office To Foster Unity), „http://hoder.com/weblog/archives/015579.shtml.

    The last paragraph there reads: „While hundreds of Iranians students (many without any ties to the IR) are deported or denied entrance or harassed by the American security organizations, how would you expect from the Islamic Republic in dealing with a student movement with a clear pro-regime-change agenda?“

    I cannot read this sentence other than justifying the repression of student protests by the Iranian regime. The parallel drawn to the USA is so artfully crafted that I have to assume that Hoder is dishonest.

    The situation in the US could be compared if American students were arrested for critizing their government’s politics and taking actions or advocating taking actions suitable to change the critized politics. Thanks to the war in Iraq we have abundant examples of sharp criticism of Bush’s Iraq politics on US campus and all sorts of demonstrations and actions, among them „Impeach Bush“. When did we hear last time that American students were arrested in this context?

    The usual allegation against me is that I am in the Mossad’s pay. You hit quite an original idea that I am taking Iranian money. Maybe the Mossad actually planted Ahmadinejad in Iran. This guy surely helps Israels PR so there might be something in it. I give you licence to use this as fodder for more Middle Eastern conspiracy theories.

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