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Abukhalil, As'ad (1960–) - PERSONAL HISTORY, INFLUENCES AND CONTRIBUTIONS, THE WORLD’S PERSPECTIVE, BIOGRAPHICAL HIGHLIGHTS, PERSONAL CHRONOLOGY:, LEGACY

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As’ad AbuKhalil (also Abu Khalil) is a Lebanese scholar based in the United States. He is a frequent commentator on Middle Eastern affairs, and he publishes a well-known blog, the Angry Arab News Service, on issues in this topic.

PERSONAL HISTORY

AbuKhalil was born on 16 March 1960 in Tyre, Lebanon. His father’s family were Shi’ite Muslims, while his mother was a Sunni Muslim. His father was secretary-general of the Lebanese parliament, and AbuKhalil was raised in Beirut. He received his B.A. (1981) and M.A. (1983) in political science from the American University of Beirut, and a Ph.D. in comparative government in 1988 from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. He later taught at universities including Tufts University, Georgetown University, and the George Washington University. Since 1993,   he has taught at California State University, Stanislaus. AbuKhalil also is a visiting professor at the University of California, Berkeley.

INFLUENCES AND CONTRIBUTIONS

AbuKhalil was influenced by his surroundings in Lebanon. He was born into a privileged, bi-communal Shi’ite-Sunni Muslim household, and he studied at elite schools in Lebanon. He also witnessed the bitter inter-communal strife of the Civil War in Lebanon that started in 1975, the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, and the heavy bombardment of Beirut in 1982. AbuKhalil also was deeply impacted by the ongoing plight of the Palestinians as well as by Marxist philosophy. This varying mix produced in him a burning commitment to social and political justice, a healthy skepticism, a militant atheism, and impatience with facile and arrogant politicians and great powers.

In addition to being a professor of political science in the United States, AbuKhalil has written a number of scholarly books and articles. He has written for a number of reference works, including the chapter on Lebanon in Political Parties of the Middle East and North Africa (1994) and numerous entries on Lebanon for the Encyclopedia of the Modern Middle East and North Africa (2004). He also authored the Historical Dictionary of Lebanon (1998). More recently, he has written two works dealing with Islamic politics and American foreign policy, Bin Laden, Islam, and America’s New “War on Terrorism” (2002) and The Battle for Saudi Arabia: Royalty, Fundamentalism, and Global Power (2004).

AbuKhalil is perhaps best known for his political commentary in the media and, more recently, for his Internet blog. Since arriving in the United States for graduate studies in 1983, AbuKhalil’s penetrating insight into Middle Eastern politics—especially relating to Lebanon, the Palestinians, the Arab-Israeli conflict, and American involvement in the Middle East—has made him an increasingly highly sought commentator on Middle East issues by the American media. Adding to his media allure is his excellent command of American English, his witty, typically biting comments, and his no-holds-barred style. AbuKhalil was a freelance consultant on Middle Eastern affairs for the NBC and ABC television networks, and more recently has appeared on CNN as well as PBS’s The News Hour . He also is a regular commentator on the Arabic-language al-Jazeera network. In September 2003, AbuKhalil launched his popular Angry Arab News Service, his Internet blog. His acerbic yet humorous comments make it one of the most talked-about blogs addressing with the Middle East.

THE WORLD’S PERSPECTIVE

AbuKhalil’s perspectives on Middle Eastern politics at times seem to decry nearly every nation, politician, and group with equal impunity. He has earned myriad admirers and detractors in both the United States and the Middle East. In either case, his perspectives and views receive notice. He was notable as one of the few voices of dissent heard in the American media and cyberspace that voiced skepticism about the anti-Syrian “Cedar Revolution” in Lebanon in 2005. The typical laudatory and shallow perspective heard in the American media celebrated the political forces arrayed against pro-Syrian president EMILE LAHOUD after the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister RAFIQ HARIRI as heralding the onset of a new era of democracy and people power in Lebanon. AbuKhalil by contrast did not hesitate to scorn these opinions, offering a deeper and more nuanced perspective on the situation and the motives behind it.

The website for AbuKhalil’s Angry Arab News Service receives between 30,000 and 35,000 hits per month, demonstrating its popularity. Approximately one-half of these hits come from in the United States.

BIOGRAPHICAL HIGHLIGHTS

Name: As’ad AbuKhalil

Birth: 1960, Tyre, Lebanon

Family: Divorced; no children

Nationality: Lebanese; American citizen

Education: American University of Beirut, 1981, B.A. political science, 1983, M.A. political science; Georgetown University, 1988, Ph.D. comparative government

PERSONAL CHRONOLOGY:

  • 1983: Moves to the United States for graduate studies
  • 1993: Begins teaching at California State University, Stanislaus
  • 2003: Begins Angry Arab News Service on the Internet

LEGACY

AbuKhalil is a formidable scholar possessing an amazing knowledge of Middle Eastern politics, particularly relating to Lebanon and the Palestinians. Yet his ultimate legacy may well be the fact that he became one of the most famous and adroit proponents of using blogging for political commentary on the Middle East—using the appeal of the Internet to post his political viewpoints and analysis in an era when the public, particularly the young and well educated, increasingly turn to the Internet as a primary source of information.

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