Dr. Ibrahim Abu-Lughod: Palestine's Foremost Academic and Intellectual
By: Qaïs S. Ahmadī / Arab America Contributing Writer
“Nearly every Arab American who fights against racial stereotyping, the ideological racism suffered by Palestinians, and the perennial antagonism to Islam, owes Ibrahim a tremendous debt. “Dr. Edward Said
Dr. Edward Said’s Guru
There would be no Edward Said in America if Dr. Ibrahim Abu-Lughod did not enter his life. Read Dr. Said’s eulogy for him and it leaves no doubt that Dr. Abu-Lughod was his mentor, his guru. This distinction is enough to take his legacy very seriously. Like Dr. Said, he was a native son of Palestine. And his proud Palestinian spirit inspired everyone who met him.
“Every so often he would say to me: we’re mediocre Edward, mediocre, and in the end maybe that very mediocrity is what’s going to beat the Israelis, for all their brilliance. “Dr. Edward Said
In the eulogy, Dr. Said reflects on the great presence and meaning his late friend had on his life. The loss of Dr. Eqbal Ahmad wounded him, but the passing of Dr. Abu-Lughod cries out in every paragraph of the eulogy. This man from Jaffa, Palestine (Israeli name: Yafo) and his impact on America, his inner circle, and his students is certainly a model for every social activist to follow.
Jaffa to Princeton
“In the unfolding story of Palestine, Ibrahim, I believe, will remain a model of what it is to have been dedicated to an idea – not as something to bow down to, but to live, and to re-examine constantly.”Dr. Edward Said
Although Dr. Abu-Lughod was born and raised in Jaffa, the 1948 war and declaration took away his home. He and his family were exiled in Beirut and Nablus until entering Princeton University in the U.S. as an understudy of the great Arab (Lebanese-American) historian, Dr. Philip Khuri Hitti. Dr. Said first met him there in 1954. They helped establish the Association of Arab American University Graduates (AAUG). AAUG was extremely invaluable in organizing Arab Americans in the U.S. Dr. Abu-Lughod also started the Arab Studies Quarterly with Dr. Said. His active and relentless nature in founding and leading many Arab-American organizations early on is appreciated to this day.
Dr. Ibrahim Abu-Lughod: A Palestinian Problem?
“For him, Palestine was an interrogation that is never answered completely – or even articulated adequately.”Dr. Edward Said
However, in his lifetime, Dr. Abu-Lughod was accosted and shunned by American neoconservative policymakers, most notably, Douglas Feith, the failed architect of the Iraq War. In an interview on Australia’s Lateline featuring Feith and Dr. Abu-Lughod, the former reviles Palestinians with a complete unsympathetic disregard of his American peer’s ethnic heritage and displacement. Feith’s treatment of his fellow American, Northwestern Professor, Dr. Abu-Lughod, on Australian national TV is only one example of the blatant anti-Arab and Islamophobic abuse directed at him, yet he never broke down.
Dr. Ibrahim Abu-Lughod: Ubreakabale
“No one knew better than Ibrahim how to turn the shambles of defeat into some sort of achievement.”Dr. Edward Said
Resultantly, his persevering Palestinian spirit inspired many, especially Dr. Said. In Jaffa, he learned to become a true neighbor to Palestinians of all faiths. In History of the Palestinians: A Land Without a People, Dr. Abu-Lughod recalls, “Palestine is unique in the Arab world in the sense that the Muslims were very familiar with the Christians, and the Christians were familiar with the Muslims, and the Muslims were familiar with the Jews.” He continues to explain that Palestinians of different faiths (before the declaration of Israel) had a great respect respect for each other. And he passed on this special sense of respect from the Holy Land to his students.
Abu-Lughod: Family of Academics
A scholar in her own right, his most extraordinary student is his daughter, Dr. Lila Abu-Lughod. She profoundly carries the intellectual torch of her parents. Her late mother, Janet Abu-Lughod (née Lippman) is remembered for penning the classic Before European Hegemony: The World System A.D. 1250-1350. Dr. Lila Abu-Lughod is a renowned Anthropologist at Columbia and has profoundly kept the family name alive.
The Indelible Pain of Losing Palestine
“Like many of us, he never really recovered from the loss of Palestine, and his early days as a refugee marked him indelibly.”Dr. Edward Said
In the end, Dr. Abu-Lughod’s legacy cannot diminished by his critics. He served his country and Arab-Americans with his heart and soul never recovering from the loss of his homeland. His over four decades of struggling with this loss in America will not go in vain. In fact, Dr. Abu-Lughod’s memory continues to live on at Bir Zeit University, West Bank, Palestine. His impact as Bir Zeit’s Vice President from 1992 until his passing is preserved at the Ibrahim Abu-Lughod Institute of International Studies (IALIIS). There is also a prestigious scholarship award named after him at Columbia’s Center for Palestine Studies. Truly, Dr. Abu-Lughod was an honorable man whose name brings honor to whomever is associated with it.
Qaïs S. Ahmadī is an exiled Afghan refugee activist raised in the East Bay Area, California with a decade of global experience in higher education. He is an active researcher having produced highly acclaimed peer-reviewed publications in his respective field. His expatriate experiences include the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the State of Qatar, Japan, and the People’s Republic of China. He looks forward to contributing knowledge based content to the Arab America audience.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of Arab America.
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