Sandbox: February 2004

Palestinian tactics. I am quoted in this morning’s New York Times “Week in Review,” in a piece by James Bennet on violence vs. non-violence in the Palestinian struggle. Well, that would be going too far. The tactical choice has been between deadly and low-level violence. Palestinian political culture has never nurtured Gandhian non-violence. It’s still dominated, as I say in one of the quotes, by the war-of-national-liberation, make-them-bleed logic. The paradigm: Algeria (for nationalists), or historic jihad (for Islamists). Bennet doesn’t echo one point I made to him: the few real advocates of non-violence see themselves as struggling against Israeli “apartheid,” using South African methods. They would dismantle Israel. Moderate means for extremist ends.
Sun, Feb 29 2004 6:01 am
Weekend quote. This one is from the late Orientalist Gustave von Grunebaum, and I offer it to all those federally-subsidized academics who still believe in a free lunch: “No group, society, or civilization, so history allows us to postulate, will consistently support an intellectual endeavor unless it believes this effort to be serviceable either to its practical or to its existential needs—and one may do well to remind oneself that it is, in the last analysis, the existential need that determines what is to be recognized as socially useful and thus as a practical need.” So, you professors of Middle Eastern studies: meet any existential needs lately? (Link: a smiling von Grunebaum.)
Fri, Feb 27 2004 3:21 pm
Najaf’s revival. A propos the plans for Middle Eastern studies at Brandeis (see below, yesterday), it’s worth noting that the most deeply informed expert on Iraqi Shiites in the U.S. teaches there: Yitzhak Nakash. This link is to his latest article, in Newsweek, examining the revival of the Iraqi shrine city of Najaf in Iraq. The idea that Najaf might emerge as a kind of Shiite Vatican is actually echoed by Ayatollah Fadlallah in Lebanon, who’s argued that this is precisely the sort of institution Shiism needs. But this raises the question: if Najaf becomes the Shiite Vatican, who will be the Shiite pope? The best way to follow the subject: read Nakash.
Fri, Feb 27 2004 3:12 pm
Those Mideast centers. I am often asked just which universities have Title VI Middle East centers. You won’t find the current list on the Department of Education website. But you’ll find it here, and it includes all the contact information you’ll ever need. (My thanks to a friend on the inside.)
Fri, Feb 27 2004 7:45 am
Dershowitz, wild card. The Jewish Council for Public Affairs, an umbrella organization, held its annual meeting last weekend in Boston. Alan Dershowitz comes to collect an award, and he speaks. Out comes this: “There is a far-right-wing effort underway to allow for governmental monitoring of Middle Eastern studies at American universities. I would strongly urge you to oppose all such efforts to allow government oversight of university curriculum.” Jaws drop. The American Jewish Committee has co-sponsored a resolution for debate that very evening, in favor of HR3077. Its legal counsel leaps up to correct Dershowitz: it’s not a “far-right-wing effort,” and the bill doesn’t compromise curriculum. Dershowitz is embarrassed. He admits he has only the foggiest notion of the bill. “May I move for my comments to be removed from the record?” Too late: a few hours later, the resolution gets shunted off to a task force for further study. Believe it or not.
Thu, Feb 26 2004 8:24 pm
Arab pen, English purse. Interested in English-Arab relations, 1880s? I post a piece I did some years ago for a festschrift, treating the relationship between the English Arabophile Wilfrid Scawen Blunt and John Louis Sabunji, a journalist and Blunt’s middleman to the Urabi movement in Egypt. At no point in time are more than a dozen people on earth interested in this subject. But when I wrote about it, one of them was the late historian Albert Hourani. I sent the article to him, and he wrote me a polite critique in reply. So I’ve appended his letter to the article.
Thu, Feb 26 2004 5:50 pm
Brandeis blueprint. Following up my previous, in an earlier speech, Reinharz cited my Ivory Towers on Sand in his appraisal of the field. Existing centers, he says, “have been controlled by ideologically motivated forces or individuals, and very often produce biased and shoddy scholarship.” He promises that the new center at Brandeis will “eschew political taint and will be unrelenting in its mission to support high quality scholarship.” Blueprint: “The Center will include Israel and the history of Zionism as a legitimate part of the Middle East, something that is not the case at other centers. It will also include neglected areas such as Turkish studies, Iranian studies, political and economic studies, and the study of minorities in the Middle East.” I wonder how long it would take such a center to gain Title VI recognition. Under the present regime: forever.
Thu, Feb 26 2004 8:35 am
Lewis, Ajami, and… Sunday’s Boston Globe had a piece on Brandeis University and its president Jehuda Reinharz. His most important legacy, the paper surmises, will be the university’s new Crown Center for Middle Eastern Studies, which will open in September. Reinharz says the field is rife with ideology and mediocrity: “We would never allow such a situation in Russian studies. Drop below the level of Bernard Lewis and Fouad Ajami, and you can count the number of great scholars maybe on both hands.” Now that would be an interesting exercise. “Orientalism had heroes,” I wrote in Ivory Towers on Sand. “Middle Eastern studies have none, and they never will, unless and until scholars of the Middle East restore some continuity with the great tradition.” Reinharz promises Brandeis will do this, and I think it just might.
Thu, Feb 26 2004 8:30 am
Voice vote, HR3077. Now, to round out a busy day, The Village Voice weighs in against HR3077, with a piece of faux-reportage entitled “The Ideology Police.” In the true spirit of investigative journalism, one Alisa Solomon talks only to the bill’s detractors, and regurgitates every word they feed her. Want a taste of the hyperbole? “The very idea of ideological feds inspecting campus lecture halls takes the culture wars to a perilous new level.” And to an entirely imaginary one. This is the Columbia-NYU version, straight from the directors of two of the most egregiously unbalanced, federally-subsidized Middle East centers. (Both directors are quoted, one is pictured.) Read it and get yourself a STOP HR3077 tattoo.
Tue, Feb 24 2004 4:44 pm
Zogby’s two cents. James J. Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute, writes in today’s Jordan Times against HR3077. (He calls Daniel Pipes and me its “prime promoters.” That’s true of me, but definitely not of Pipes–see previous posting.) It isn’t difficult to understand why Zogby opposes HR3077. Middle East centers at universities, far from being shelters for objective study, are natural allies of advocacy groups like his. These groups exist to promote an agenda, and Middle East centers promote the same one–a convergence of interests. Each time the likes of Zogby enters the fray over HR3077, it simply proves the point I made in Ivory Towers on Sand: this field is not about distinterested study. It’s about ethnic mobility, legitimized by the substitution of politics for scholarship. You may think that’s fine, but it’s not clear why taxpayers should foot the bill for it, especially when the nation is desperately short of real Mideast specialists.
Tue, Feb 24 2004 1:47 pm
Pipes on HR3077. Daniel Pipes devotes his column this morning to HR3077. Reminder: the bill would create an advisory board for the Title VI program of government subsidies to area studies at universities. The bill’s radical opponents, especially Arab and Muslim advocacy groups, have portrayed Pipes as a prime initiator or backer of the bill. But Pipes, who now serves on the board of the U.S. Institute of Peace, and once served on the Fulbright board, hasn’t been a great believer in HR3077. Nor has he been an activist for it. Truth is, he doesn’t think much of such boards. Pipes would rather defund Title VI, or divert its post-9/11 windfall to an alternative network of centers devoted to terrorism studies. For now, he’s willing to give the board idea a chance. Since I strongly support HR3077, I’m grateful for his endorsement, however reserved. But if the board isn’t created, or fails to effect any change, he promises to launch a defunding campaign. Should that happen, I’ll be right behind him.
Tue, Feb 24 2004 9:45 am
Defund Title VI? On Friday, the Detroit News ran a quirky editorial on HR3077. They’re against the bill because they think the proposed advisory board would “place federal snoops into campus classrooms,” and “monitor classroom content.” (It would do neither.) Then the editorial gets interesting: “If universities are failing to train crucial national security personnel, as the government intended, then lawmakers should simply withdraw the $90 million [spent annually on Title VI] and contract with someone else to do the job. This would put the universities on notice that they have to perform to qualify for public dollars.” If academics continue to resist an advisory board, it could prompt more concete proposals for defunding Title VI, in whole or in part. You have been warned.
Mon, Feb 23 2004 7:08 pm
Democracy trap. A propos the previous posting, on the Greater Middle East Initiative, here’s my take on democracy promotion: “Should America Promote a Liberal, Democratic Middle East?” It’s an address I delivered at a conference of The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, about a year and a half ago. Obviously, my argument didn’t carry the day.
Mon, Feb 23 2004 2:04 pm
Greater Middle East. Last week, Al-Hayat published the leaked U.S. working paper on the Greater Middle East Initiative, to be presented to the G-8 summit at Sea Island, Georgia, this coming June. The plan, modeled on the Helsinki Initiative, would prod Arab countries toward democracy through a series of incentives. I’m already on record as a skeptic about democracy promotion, although I find myself in odd company: retrograde Arab governments, the U.S. State Department, and the French. I wish I could overcome decades of reading, study, and experience–but I can’t. So I wish my administration friends well in their endeavor, even as I urge them to keep a “Plan B” in the top drawer.
Mon, Feb 23 2004 12:26 pm
Palestinian fences. Israel’s fence is indeed a wall between the West Bank city of Kalkilya and Israeli Kfar Saba. This article considers economic effects, but omits one. In the 1990s, Kalkilya was a zone of total Palestinian police control. In the nearby Sharon plain, property crime reached epidemic scale. Thieves crossed from Kalkilya nightly, and fenced stolen goods openly. Israeli police were helpless. I know: one night burglars stole my laptop and cellphone. I reached them by calling my phone, and ransomed back the laptop the next day, in a market on the edge of Kalkilya. (Curious? $500.) The city’s underworld thrived in a lawless environment and with the complicity of the Palestinian police. Suicide bombers later took the same routes from Kalkilya. But the crime epidemic had already eroded Israeli public support for a borderless peace. The fence has had a grievous impact on Kalkilya’s once-thriving underworld–for which, of course, Israel must be blamed.
Mon, Feb 23 2004 3:46 am
Bomb around the corner. Friday morning I was in Jerusalem, where I addressed the annual meeting of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. I found across-the-board support for HR3077 among the conferees. I hope I also persuaded Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), who attended my address. Sunday morning the same delegates got a close look at the aftermath of a suicide bombing, 100 yards from their hotel. “We knew about these attacks intellectually before, but now we have a little more emotional understanding,” Nadler told a reporter. “One thing that is really mind-blowing is seeing this piece of flesh like uncooked meat lying on the ground, and knowing that it comes from a person.”
Mon, Feb 23 2004 3:31 am
Weekend quote. John M. MacKenzie, historian of imperialism, on Saidian conservatism: “I now see Edward Said’s Orientalism and much post-colonialist scholarship as, quite simply, passé. We must guard against traditions of scholarship that are so convinced of their radicalism that they cast alternative approaches into the role of the reactionary ‘Other’. If history has anything to teach us, it is surely the fact that one generation’s radical, by an ineluctable process, becomes the next generation’s conservative.” (The link: cover of MacKenzie’s own book, Orientalism.)
Fri, Feb 20 2004 1:55 pm
Myopic Massad? Another “D” paper by Columbia’s Joseph Massad over at the Ahram Weekly, arguing that Zionism is a species of Orientalist racism, this time as evidenced in the doctrines of its three major thinkers: Theodore Herzl, Meir Kahane, and Benny Morris. The world isn’t short of people who are too myopic to see ambiguities in Jewish identity, and complexities in an Israel juxtaposed between East and West. Suffice it to say that if Israel were just a case of white European settler-colonialism, like French Algeria, it would have disappeared long ago. It’s apparently something else or something more, but Massad hasn’t figured that out. Indeed, he hasn’t even tried. He wants tenure at Columbia, and will seek it with a new book entitled The Persistence of the Palestinian Question. Will Columbia scrape bottom?
Fri, Feb 20 2004 3:05 am
The real Hizbullah. Farid El Khazen, chair of political science at the American University of Beirut, writes a brief but blunt analysis of Hizbullah. The group “is sometimes cited as a positive example of how inclusion in the political process can moderate Middle Eastern Islamist parties.” Nonsense. Hizbullah “advocates few domestic policies. Nor has electoral participation moderated its platform. Hizbollah still subscribes to its 1985 founding charter calling for an Islamic state in Lebanon.” It “fully subscribes to Iran’s political and ideological agenda.” And it’s also unique as “the only armed non-state actor in the Arab world that runs an autonomous military and security infrastructure.” El Khazen sees Hizbullah as a major obstacle to Lebanon’s return to full statehood. He’s right.
Thu, Feb 19 2004 10:49 am
Can Congress fix… Middle Eastern studies? Here’s my own most systematic argument for HR3077. Offered as inspiration for you callers and faxers (see right below).
Thu, Feb 19 2004 7:53 am
Senators! HR3077. Here’s a contact list for the Senators on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. Take time and call, fax, or write in support of the bill. Opposition is vocal, and the subsidized professoriate has lots of time to write letters and petitions. What have you done to counter them? A call or fax is best.
Thu, Feb 19 2004 6:52 am
Sloppy in Dubai. This morning’s Gulf News (Dubai) runs an attack on HR3077 by one Dr. Albadr Al Shateri, described as “a political analyst and writer from the United Arab Emirates.” “Who is behind such legislation?” he asks with a conspiratorial wink, and points his finger at me. His evidence: a sloppy crib of excerpts from my book Ivory Towers on Sand. Let me reassure Dr. Al Shateri: if I had written HR3077, it would look different. But it is the result of what, in our benighted land, is called a compromise.
Thu, Feb 19 2004 3:56 am
More Tamimi. Follow-up to previous: my major posting on Tamimi. John Esposito is still on the board of advisors of Tamimi’s institute. In my posting, I wrote: “I am left puzzled at just what an Islamist would have to say to enter Esposito’s bad books.” I still am.
Thu, Feb 19 2004 3:03 am
Dr. Tamimi speaks. I’ve written on several occasions at Sandstorm about Dr. Azzam Tamimi, who heads the Institute of Islamic Political Thought in London. He’s a collaborator of John Esposito’s, a participant in various “dialogues,” a guest at the U.S. ambassador’s estate near London–and he’s Hamas. Now MEMRI does a nice job assembling choice quotes from Tamimi, and it isn’t pretty.
Wed, Feb 18 2004 7:16 pm
ADCeption. The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) is urging its members to write to Senators against HR3077. The ADC claims that the bill would “politicize the content of what is taught at our universities.” Obviously the content is already politicized, in a way that serves the ADC. Otherwise it wouldn’t stick its nose into the fray. Note how the ADC drums up support: HR3077 is cast as a project of Daniel Pipes, the ADC’s favorite bogey. In fact, the bill was drafted without any input from Pipes. He’s endorsed it–as have several Congressmen and a former assistant secretary of education. The driving intellectual force has been Stanley Kurtz. A deception by the ADC.
Wed, Feb 18 2004 3:35 pm
Said in Hebrew. Tyler Cowen at The Volokh Conspiracy has quoted Edward Said, who once acknowledged that while his books circulated “surreptitiously” in Arafat’s domain, they were “available” in Israel. They aren’t just available in Israel. They’re available in Hebrew translation. Orientalism appeared in Hebrew a couple of years ago, belatedly; Said’s memoir Out of Place didn’t have to wait long at all, and was rushed to print by a big commercial press. The Question of Palestine appeared in Hebrew back in 1981 (yet never in Arabic). In which Middle Eastern country does Said have the most readers? Likely answer: Israel.
Wed, Feb 18 2004 1:57 pm
Clinton and the Muslims. In an earlier posting, I mentioned Bill Clinton’s impressive performance before the U.S.-Islamic World Forum in Qatar last month. (I attended as well.) Don’t take my word for it; go here and watch it yourself. (You’ll need Windows Media Player.)
Wed, Feb 18 2004 10:59 am
Title VI smoking gun. Some people have said to me: the evidence for political bias in Title VI Middle East centers is anecdotal. To them I now answer: read this petition to the Senate, submitted by a swarm of 93 radical far-left organizations. They don’t want an advisory board for Title VI. Why do they care? Some Title VI centers work with them in propaganda-style “outreach.” And Middle East centers are often the back door through which propagandists get access to campuses. Their lecture fees are paid by your tax dollars. No one is the wiser. Read the list. Think why. Write Congress. (The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.)
Wed, Feb 18 2004 9:32 am
Hamas wings it. Over at the Middle East Quarterly, which I edit, we’ve posted another article from the winter issue: Matthew Levitt, “Hamas from Cradle to Grave.” Levitt’s argument: the distinction some draw between the “political” and “social” wings of Hamas is not only demonstrably false, but actually abets terrorism. Levitt is a former FBI counterterrorism intelligence analyst.
Tue, Feb 17 2004 3:10 pm
University Writing? This year, Columbia College replaced its “Logic and Rhetoric” first-year Core requirement with something called “University Writing,” and it sounds appalling. The freshmen are now compelled to read Said’s Orientalism, Foucault’s “Panopticism,” and Didion, Freire, and Nussbaum–as models of writing. (Where is Homi Bhabha?) This is supposed to make students “become more capable and independent readers and writers.” It looks more like the conceit of professors who want to canonize their academic saints and legitimize their own marginal prose style. Write like Foucault! (“Those sick of the plague were caught up in a meticulous tactical partitioning in which individual differentiations were the constricting effects of a power that multiplied, articulated and subdivided itself.”) University writing? Military music.
Tue, Feb 17 2004 10:17 am
Sandstorm vs. USA Today. USA Today runs an editorial this morning against HR3077. Read my response at Sandstorm, entitled “USA Today, Duped by Michigan Profs!” The editorial holds up the University of Michigan faculty as a model of those dedicated educators who would help us through the war on terror by teaching Arabic, etc. They don’t need our advice. I reveal their record in boycotting government language programs. That’s the ethos in Title VI centers, and that’s just one of many reasons why Title VI needs an advisory board.
Tue, Feb 17 2004 10:11 am
Diverse MESA? The letter of the American Folklore Society, linked just below, gives the Senators this assurance: “No one who has witnessed the intense debate characteristic of Middle Eastern Studies Association [MESA] meetings could possibly imagine a lack of diversity, much less an ideological lockstep, within that organization.” I’ll say it: that’s a lie. And to bolster my claim, I link to a New Republic article by Franklin Foer, who actually went to the MESA convention in 2001. He attended a special plenary session on 9/11. Foer: “Given that MESA is the discipline’s premier organization–drawing professors from Israel and the Arab world as well as the United States–one might have anticipated a controversial session. One would have been wrong.” It turned into an anti-war-on-terror rally. Now that’s the MESA I know.
Mon, Feb 16 2004 3:11 pm
Title VI folklore. The American Folklore Society has written a letter to Senators against HR3077–and has bought into the folklore about the bill. Their claim: the advisory board for Title VI would “reduplicate existing oversight procedures.” Grantees already “undergo several kinds of performance review.” All this is true. What the folklorists don’t get is that the board wouldn’t have an oversight function. Its job would be to advise the Congress and the Department of Education on the priorities and direction of Title VI, not oversee the grantees. The folks write: “The long-term needs of the economy and the security establishment are not best served by micro-management from above.” True. What Title VI lacks is macro-management. What sort of program would best serve national needs? Sorry, this is something academics can’t decide alone, or at all.
Mon, Feb 16 2004 2:53 pm
Sistani’s Arabic. See this account by a Sunni Arab who met in Najaf with Ayatollah Ali Sistani, the influential Shiite cleric (go to “Arab, Kurdish Chieftains Visit Sistani”): “He [Sistani] had a heavy (and I mean really heavy) Persian accent which he didn’t (and couldn’t) hide. He used classical Arabic, but the structure of his sentences was not perfect.” I’d seen it reported that the Iranian-born Sistani had only a mild accent. But Sistani hasn’t appeared or spoken in public even once since Saddam’s fall, and this is the likely reason. There’s another leading ayatollah with an identical message, and who speaks perfect classical Arabic with an Iraqi accent. He’s also aligned with Sistani. That would be Ayatollah Fadlallah in Lebanon. More on him to come.
Mon, Feb 16 2004 10:12 am
Berkshire Duck. A newspaper that calls itself The Berkshire Eagle (Pittsfield, Massachusetts) today runs a truly idiotic editorial on HR3077. It calls the legislation “a Campus Watch initiative,” which it definitely was not. (It was written by Rep. Peter Hoekstra with lots of informed input, none of it from Campus Watch.) And it calls me a “Campus Watch watchbird,” which I definitely am not. (I do my own independent watching, as visitors to this website are perfectly aware.) The editorial is entitled “Return of Campus McCarthyism.” McCarthyism exaggerated associations to insinuate a grand conspiracy. It’s returning, all right–in editorials like this one.
Mon, Feb 16 2004 6:23 am
Muslims in Europe, 1935. Geneva is a center of Muslim activism, and the base of Tariq Ramadan, the man considered to be the guiding light of a new Euro-Islam. Or maybe he’s just another extremist; it depends on your point of view. The same question arose regarding a Muslim activist who made his base in Geneva 80 years ago: Shakib Arslan. In 1935, he convened a European Muslim Congress there, and it caused a stir. I devoted a chapter to it in my book Islam Assembled, and I now post it here, with illustrations. A forgotten episode, but a precursor.
Mon, Feb 16 2004 2:42 am
Weekend thought. This, from the late Elie Kedourie, 1965: “If we insist that a scholar is no scholar unless he displays ‘sympathy’, then we introduce the values of the marketplace into the groves of academe. I need not dwell on the consequences of such a demand. As anyone can see for themselves, the field of scholarship, Orientalism included, is strewn with scholarly enterprises broken on the rock of ‘sympathy’ for some primitive tribe, some oppressed nationality, some persecuted race. ‘Sympathy’ leads to the politicization, i.e. to the adulturation and impoverishment of scholarship.” (The link: a relevant piece about Kedourie.)
Fri, Feb 13 2004 3:15 pm
State Dept. Arabists. I’ve posted my review (published exactly ten years ago) of a favorite book, Robert D. Kaplan’s The Arabists: The Romance of an American Elite. And I’ve illustrated it. Check out the group photo from 1945 of five members of the old Arabist “club.”
Fri, Feb 13 2004 11:02 am
Prof. Gerhard Höpp†I note in sadness the passing in December of the Berlin Arabist Gerhard Höpp, at the age of 61. I met him in 1993, when I spent some weeks in Germany collecting documents, and he hosted my stay in Berlin. He was one of few East German scholars to make a successful transition to the new order. Gerhard focused his research on the Arab presence in Germany. In his last years, he unearthed the story of Arab victims of Nazism, tracing Moroccans and Egyptians who ended up in concentration and labor camps. This link is to an obit (in German) by my friend Wolfgang Schwanitz. Innâ lillâhi wa innâ ilayhi râji’ûn.
Fri, Feb 13 2004 9:06 am
Al-Qaeda vs. Hizbullah. The praise lavished on (Lebanese Shiite) Hizbullah for its various triumphs over Israel is causing envy among the (Saudi Sunni) Salafi-Jihadists (i.e., the Osama types). So the extreme Sunnis are accusing the extreme Shiites of…being secretly allied to the Jews. Reuven Paz has written a smart brief about this. I’d only add that it’s of a piece with a sharp revival of sectarianism more generally, related to the brewing Sunni-Shiite contest over Iraq. Stay tuned.
Fri, Feb 13 2004 7:28 am
Curtail and Suppre$$. Some professors have signed a petition to the Senate against HR3077, and it’s a hoot. This is how it describes the bill: “HR 3077 intends to rewrite Title VI and curtail and suppress area studies especially Middle Eastern programs.” And I thought the bill would reauthorize Title VI, in order to expand area studies with the massive Title VI increase authorized by Congress after 9/11. If the far left were intellectually consistent, they would renounce federal funding altogether. This petition was organized by one Professor Zillah Eisenstein, Ithaca College, who describes her present work as “building a transnational feminist response critical of global capitalism.” So why not begin by forswearing patriarchal subsidies from Washington?
Fri, Feb 13 2004 5:50 am
Edward Said’s Arabic. The Ahram Weekly publishes an incomplete, posthumous essay by the late Edward Said, on the Arabic language. (At least it seems incomplete, as it ends abruptly.) A favorite tactic of criticism is to claim that your target doesn’t really know Arabic. Some said it of Said, and presumably this essay was intended to refute them. In the process, he dismisses the Arabic competence of Bernard Lewis, and calls Thomas Friedman an “idiot-savant.” He also lambastes Harvard professor Leila Ahmed–who had the temerity to dissent from parts of Said’s Orientalism–for her supposedly willful ignorance of classical Arabic. (He “feels sorry that she never bothered to learn her own language.”) No score left unsettled: that was Edward Said.
Thu, Feb 12 2004 7:05 pm
Israel Studies. I’ve posted a new entry at Sandstorm, called “How Not to Promote Israel Studies.” Thoughts prompted by the inauguration of a new visiting Israeli professorship at Berkeley.
Thu, Feb 12 2004 1:25 pm
Ansar al-Islam. Ansar al-Islam, the Al-Qaeda affiliate operating in Iraq, is big in the news right now, and is the obvious suspect in several of the latest bombings. The Middle East Quarterly, which I edit, has an article in the winter issue on the group, by Jonathan Schanzer. Just the right backgrounder.
Thu, Feb 12 2004 8:01 am
Pipes kept cool. Yesterday I mentioned the appearance by Daniel Pipes at Berkeley. Here is a more thorough account. “The Berkeley Police Department was out in full force, as were a private security team. People going inside were frisked three times and had their bags searched thoroughly as well.” Wouldn’t that shake you, if you were a lecturer? And this: “Jeering, giggling, hissing, booing, and finally, the orchestrated chanting of ‘racist’ and ‘Zionist,’ (among other things) started drowning out the lecture.” Wouldn’t that unnerve you? “And yet amidst it all, Pipes kept his cool.” Impressive. I saw the webcast of Edward Said’s speech at Berkeley last spring, and recall not a single disturbance. Who on the Berkeley faculty will speak out against the students who tried to intimidate Pipes? My bet: none.
Thu, Feb 12 2004 4:40 am
SSRC on barricades. The Social Science Research Council, a formerly grand institution now given over to flakey fashions, has decided that HR3077 should be discussed under the rubric of “growing threats to intellectual integrity and openness.” On the sins of the SSRC, consult my book Ivory Towers on Sand, pp. 91-94. As I put it in the book, the SSRC “marched Middle Eastern studies down every dead end in the 1980s and 1990s,” when it sponsored hopelessly arcane if not bizarre research, often on government re-grants. (I described one of its programs as “a successful sting operation on Congress.”) So the SSRC, having barked up so many wrong trees, is barking up the wrong one again. HR3077 might do what the SSRC has utterly failed to do: redefine and redeem area studies.
Wed, Feb 11 2004 10:15 pm
Academics anonymous? A very strange website, “Stop HR3077,” has made an apperarance. The website’s homepage reproduces the most outlandish press quotes about the bill, misconstruing its provisions from beginning to end. The site calls on readers to write to their Senators. But what’s strange is that its author has gone to great lengths to conceal his or her identity. The domain name registry is no help, and neither is the e-mail address. I and other proponents of HR3077 have engaged in open advocacy. This secretive advocacy is anti-democratic in its very essence, and a bit intimidating: it’s like being accosted by a masked man (who wants your money–Title VI is all about money for professors). Show yourself, man.
Wed, Feb 11 2004 2:15 pm
Pipes at Berkeley. Daniel Pipes spoke last night at Berkeley. The report in The Daily Californian says that the police spent the evening throwing hecklers out of the hall. The first to go: graduate student of English Snehal Shingavi (yes, still a grad student). Back in 2002, as a teaching assistant of an English section, he caused his university untold embarrassment with this course description: “This class takes as its starting point the right of Palestinians to fight for their own self-determination. Conservative thinkers are encouraged to seek other sections.” The barbarism at Berkeley is barely controlled, and Pipes deserves all credit for running the gauntlet. Check out the photo of the hecklers. They look like a mob.
Wed, Feb 11 2004 11:19 am
Berkeley’s gratitude. The latest newsletter of Berkeley’s Center for Middle Eastern Studies (CMES) is chock-full of interesting information. The lead story tells of a public address the previous spring by Edward Said (since deceased), and another page is devoted to an antiwar forum back in April. Between these stories, the newsletter boasts that CMES will receive a $1.6 million Title VI government subsidy over the next three years, a 25-percent increase over its previous grant. “The CMES is grateful to the Department of Education for this generous award,” ends the story. Really? It isn’t the Department that’s been generous. It’s the Congress, which authorized the Title VI increases, and American taxpayers, who’ve paid for them. The Middle East profs would remember that crucial fact–and the debt they owe to the public–if Title VI had an independent advisory board. It’s time to remind them, especially at Berkeley.
Wed, Feb 11 2004 9:33 am
Clinton magic in Doha. Did I mention that I was in Qatar three weeks ago, for the U.S.-Islamic World Forum? Well, I was. Ralph Peters, conservative commentator in the New York Post, perfectly described how Bill Clinton mesmerized and captivated his Muslim audience. “Clinton just may have been the only American who could have reached that unforgiving crowd,” wrote Peters. “After a weekend of complaining about all things American, that Middle Eastern audience rose to its feet with evangelical enthusiasm–after being told precisely what they did not want to hear by a Scripture-quoting former president.” It was a tremendous performance, and I can testify to its effect on one man: Qazi Hussein Ahmed, leader of the Pakistani Islamist party Jamaat-e-Islami. After Clinton’s speech, I found myself in an elevator with him (and his entourage). So how did you like the President’s speech? I asked him. “Excellent!” he beamed. “Excellent!” Magical.
Tue, Feb 10 2004 3:51 pm
Fawaz Gerges redux. Last week, Mideast “expert” Fawaz Gerges gave an interview to The Christian Science Monitor. Six months before 9/11, Gerges had castigated “the terror industry” for fomenting an “irrational fear of terrorism by focusing too much on far-fetched horrible scenarios.” Now he’s back to his default analysis. CSM’s editors: “You say militant Islamism is a spent force but the violence continues: We’ve had 9/11, foreign fighters going into Iraq, the promotion of violence from mosques, Palestinian suicide bombers.” Gerges: “Throughout the Arab world Islamists have concluded violence and terrorism not only hurt their movement but harm the interests of the Muslim community….Islamist movements are having second thoughts about their use of terror in service of the political.” I call this the “broken clock” analysis. It never changes, but the analyst knows that at least twice a day, he’ll tell the right time. With Gerges, we’re still waiting.
Tue, Feb 10 2004 6:39 am
Job in Scotland? Someone has suggested that I publicize this job announcement in modern Middle Eastern history, at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. They’re apparently looking for the best, without the usual regard for ideology. Deadline: February 20.
Tue, Feb 10 2004 5:36 am
Culture of apology. Robert Irwin’s splendid new book The Alhambra is winning praise in the London papers. It should do as well in America. He’s a wonderful iconoclast. Here he is a couple of weeks ago in The Scotsman: “Over the last decade or so a ghastly culture of apology has developed. Among other things, we are supposed to apologise for our medieval ancestors behaving in medieval ways. Specifically we are urged to apologise for the Crusades. The apologetic drift is all one way and there are few or no calls for any apology for Jihad, or the Ottoman invasion of Europe.” And he writes that the medieval Arab contribution to the West has been “somewhat exaggerated.” Example: “If I had become ill in the Middle Ages, I would rather have gone to a village wise woman than to a university doctor who knew Avicenna by heart, since Avicennan medicine was based on a totally false picture of how the human body worked.” Read all you can of Irwin.
Mon, Feb 09 2004 8:56 pm
The Lewis Doctrine. This past Saturday, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, speaking at a Munich conference on security, saw fit to quote this passage from Bernard Lewis: “The war against terror and the quest for freedom are inextricably linked–neither can succeed without the other.” This follows a piece in the Wall Street Journal last week on the impact of the “Lewis Doctrine” in Washington. As interest in Lewis surges, I offer a short entry on him, which I wrote in the mid-1990s for an encyclopedia of historians. Disclosure: he’s been my teacher and mentor.
Mon, Feb 09 2004 11:49 am
For German readers. This review of my book Ivory Towers on Sand: The Failure of Middle Eastern Studies is by Stefan Wild, professor of Semitic philology and Islamic studies at Bonn University. It appears in the current issue of Die Welt des Islams, which he edits. It’s fair enough.
Mon, Feb 09 2004 11:11 am
Repeat a lie enough. Something called the “US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation” has summoned the multitides to write Senators urging them to reject HR3077 (International Studies in Higher Education Act). Their model letter claims that the advisory board envisioned by the bill would “have oversight of curricula, course materials, and even the hiring of faculty at institutions that accept federal government money for international studies.” In fact, the bill prohibits just this, and the Senators know it perfectly well. Why do some people think it’s smart to lie to Congress? Or maybe it’s just habit.
Mon, Feb 09 2004 11:08 am
Sandbox fills. Sandbox, the quick news log of this website, is launched today. Readers of Sandstorm know that it is more a web column than a weblog. Entries tend to be long, and are posted only once a week. Sandbox is reserved for subjects that can be treated by shorter, quick entries. I’ll be trying to post here every day.
Mon, Feb 09 2004 11:00 am