Sandbox: July 2004

Post-post-Zionism. Yoav Gelber, Haifa University historian, is doing the most systematic work in debunking the theses of Israel’s post-Zionists debunkers. Ha’aretz runs a review of Gelber’s 600-page study of 1948, by the distinguished Hebrew University historian Yehoshua Porath. Porath points out that the question of why the Palestinians fled “is not important.” The real question is why Israel did not let them come back. “Preventing their return created the necessary conditions for the national existence of the new state,” writes Porath. “This is what the Arabs could not accept, and have not accepted to this day. That is the main source, if not the only one, of the continuing conflict.”
Fri, Jul 30 2004 8:53 am
How to win. The Hoover Institution has published a new book, A Practical Guide to Winning the War on Terrorism, edited by Adam Garfinkle. It’s all about the “hearts and minds” end of the war. I’ve got an essay there, and so do the following people: Lisa Anderson, Stephen Philip Cohen, Michele Durocher Dunne, Dale Eickelman, Graham Fuller, Gregory Gause, Prince Hassan bin Talal, Muqtedar Khan, Daoud Kuttab, Ellen Laipson, Olivier Roy, William Rugh, Robert Satloff, and Amir Taheri. Judging from the line-up, I’m in the minority—again.
Fri, Jul 30 2004 8:01 am
Grade: incomplete. During my latest travels, many people asked me about the fate of HR3077, the Title VI reform to which I devoted so much attention this past year. Title VI is part of the much larger Higher Education Act, which is up for reauthorization. But there’s so much partisanship over college affordability that the Higher Education Act won’t be reauthorized on time, in the current session of Congress. (That’s a first in the history of act, which dates back to 1965.) The current provisions will be extended, and the reauthorization process will begin anew. By the way, I’ve checked: the people in Congress who wrote and introduced HR3077 are still squarely behind it.
Thu, Jul 29 2004 10:21 am
Pryce-Jones on Kedourie. David Pryce-Jones wrote interesting things about the late Elie Kedourie in his introduction to the reissue of Kedourie’s classic collection, The Chatham House Version and Other Middle Eastern Studies. So I ran the Pryce-Jones introduction in the spring Middle East Quarterly, and now it’s on the journal’s website.
Wed, Jul 28 2004 3:48 pm
What about Columbia? Harvard University’s Divinity School has decided to return that $2.5 million gift for an Islamic studies chair to the donor: the United Arab Emirates. Bottom line: the UAE is just too toxic to warrant the kind of legitimation Harvard confers. Remember: the UAE also contributed a quarter of a million dollars toward the Edward Said Chair at Columbia, a fact concealed by Columbia until last spring. Maybe now’s the time for Columbia to consider returning that UAE gift. Or are Columbia’s standards not quite up to Harvard’s?
Wed, Jul 28 2004 2:43 pm
Beinin, Israeli? Something called the Olga Document has been circulated by far-left Israeli “activists and intellectuals.” Israel is living a “benighted colonial reality” and should end the occupation, cease defining itself as a Jewish state, and recognize the Palestinian “right of return.” “We seek to start off a genuine public discussion about the Israeli blind alley in which we live.” And so on. Wait, did I say Israeli? Why, there’s the name of Stanford’s Joel Beinin among the signatories. He’s not an Israeli, nor does he live in Israel. After spending three years in the country over 30 years ago, he abandoned it for the comforts of American academe. I abhor the Olga Document, but at least it’s the work of people who live the reality. If Beinin’s name is on the list, maybe it includes other wannabes as well.
Tue, Jul 27 2004 12:29 am
RSS discontinued. I’ve discontinued the RSS feed of Sandbox. It had to be maintained manually, and it was too much trouble. If you did use it, I’d like to hear from you: I’ll reconsider if I hear from enough RSS fans. Just drop me a line from the homepage (scroll down to the comments box).
Sun, Jul 25 2004 10:00 pm
Horan, Amman, 1970. A few years ago, the late Hume Horan (see entries right below) gave an interview about his service in Amman, Jordan during the September 1970 showdown between King Hussein and Yasir Arafat. “The King’s victory,” he said, “showed that it was not the size of the dog in the fight, so much as the size of the fight in the dog. King Hussein was a fighter, and we all knew–his army knew–that if he went, it would be feet first. He was a fighter, and [U.S. ambassador L.] Dean Brown was right there with him. They worked together like a pairs skating team. The King’s victorious leadership helped us to shelve some contingency planning of a sort that you can imagine.” Horan knew how to tell a story. Read this one.
Sun, Jul 25 2004 11:18 am
Horan on Koran. Robert Kaplan’s book The Arabists also told the story of Hume Horan (see entries right below), and an early version of the book treatment appeared here, in The Atlantic. Kaplan quoted Horan on the Koran: “Another problem is that Arabic is so beautiful to listen to. So you find yourself putting up with all kinds of crap from these people because of the crystalline way their language lays itself out in space. Just look at the Koran. The English translations are incompetent, I know. The first chapters should really be footnotes at the end: nothing but laundry lists, supplemental legislation–Leviticus. ‘The Chapter of the Cow’–bah how dull! But later on, bang, the revelations come at you with a muzzle velocity of three thousand feet per second that just knocks you flat on your can.”
Sun, Jul 25 2004 11:16 am
WP on Horan. Here’s the Washington Post obit on Hume Horan (see previous entry; registration required). It mentions that he did his undergraduate and master’s degrees at Harvard, the latter at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies (1963). Doesn’t name his mentor: H.A.R. Gibb.
Sun, Jul 25 2004 11:15 am
One good man. Hume Horan, an extraordinary State Department Arabist, has died from cancer at the age of 69. Horan was an exception to the rule. He had a profound understanding of the Arab world (and excellent Arabic), but was never warped by romantic sympathy. He spent almost 30 years in the Foreign Service, serving as ambassador to five countries, including Saudi Arabia and Sudan. I published one of his pieces in the Middle East Quarterly, entitled “Those Young Arab Muslims and Us,” and it repays reading. Horan came out of retirement to spend six months in Iraq last year, helping out with the tribes.
Sat, July 24 2004 8:10 pm
Fisk gets D. Last week, Robert Fisk had a piece in The Independent on murders of Iraqi professors. The identity of the perps, he writes, is a mystery, but “disgruntled students they are not.” We are then treated to far-out theories propounded by some faculty. Kuwait is responsible, or maybe Israel. When Orly Halpern reported just this story in The Globe and Mail last month, academic administrators and students gave her an entirely different explanation: the killings are revenge for bad grades. (The sciences dean at Baghdad U., she wrote, “keeps all the threatening letters sent to lecturers in his college. The pile is high and a number of them have bullets taped to them.”) So Halpern reported facts; Fisk, as usual, reported conspiracy theories.
Wed, Jul 21 2004 10:15 pm
Cole-cocked. Juan Cole comments on the 9/11 Commission’s finding that most of the Saudi hijackers passed through Iran before the operation. Cole then invokes his presumed expertise on Islamic sectarianism to discount any possible implications of the fact. And whose interest is served by a possible Iran connection? Cole: the “Likud lobby,” which “wants the Tehran regime overthrown in part because it stands in the way of an Israeli annexation of southern Lebanon, with the Litani river as the long-sought prize.” Sic. Presumably the Nile and the Euphrates will follow. Cole is quick to jump on pundits who lack his self-advertised expertise on Islam, Iran, or the Arabs. Cole knows absolutely zero about Israel, yet that doesn’t stop him.
Wed, Jul 21 2004 11:01 am
AMIA anniversary. I’m still on the move, with little spare time and choppy internet access. But I wanted to mention the tenth anniversary, this past Sunday, of the 1994 bombing of the Jewish communal (AMIA) building in Buenos Aires, in which 85 people died and hundreds were maimed and wounded. The official investigation into the attack has failed almost completely. Back in 1994, I wrote an article entitled “The Jihad Against the Jews,” putting the attack in context. I was convinced then, and remain convinced today, that Hizbullah did it. (Also see my remarks in the documentary film by Dutch filmmaker Ton Vriens, “To Live With Terror.”)
Tue, Jul 20 2004 10:00 pm
Back shortly. No, I haven’t given up. I am on the road, with assorted adventures, including a restful night’s sleep on a bench at JFK airport. (Here’s a tip: the Ramada Plaza near the airport doesn’t always honor vouchers from American Airlines…) I’ll be back with interesting items shortly.
Sun, Jul 18 2004 4:50 pm
Qaradawi win or lose? A Muslim analyst in Britain claims that the spat over Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi in London has been a boost to UK Muslims. That may be, but it’s done Qaradawi no good. As he himself noted on his arrival, he’s been coming to London for thirty years without incident. Qaradawi already knew that his support for suicide bombings had made him toxic. The London visit got people to read his other fatwas, which made him the bugbear of gay activists and feminists. The real prize is that U.S. visa, and I hear he’s really sore at not having one. The last time I saw him in Qatar, he shared a podium with Martin Indyk (and Richard Haass). He probably thought he was getting closer, but I’d estimate the visa is more remote than ever.
Tue, Jul 13 2004 10:16 am
Qaradawi non-quote. I abhor the views of Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi (see posts from last week), but I’m not happy with what the London Telegraph did to him this morning. It attributed to Qaradawi an accusatory view of rape victims: “To be absolved from guilt, the raped woman must have shown some sort of good conduct.” These words actually belong to someone else, a consultant to the website Islamonline. Even if Qaradawi is ostensible head of the committee that oversees this website, a Muslim jurist can only be deemed responsible for his own fatwas. Does Qaradawi share this view of rape victims? Someone should pop that question to him while he’s in London, or dig the answer out of his past fatwas. Today’s Telegraph article establishes nothing.
Sun, Jul 11 2004 9:35 am
Debt to Hassoun. Juan Cole is now “reluctant” to comment on Marine Cpl. Wassef Ali Hassoun, the Lebanese-American who was “kidnapped” in Iraq and then turned up in Beirut, safe and sound. Earlier, Cole had used Hassoun as a peg for a paean to the contribution of Arab Americans (Danny Thomas, Dr. DeBakey, etc.) “All Americans owe [Hassoun] and his family a debt of gratitude that cannot be repaid,” Cole announced. “The next time any American looks askance at someone for having an Arabic accent or appearing Arab, they should remember Cpl. Hassoun. I only hope he can escape his captors so that we can remember his further exploits.” Well, he’s “escaped,” and his exploits are lookin’ questionable. Keyboard-happy Cole owes Arab Americans an apology, for turning a complete nobody into their paragon.
Sun, Jul 11 2004 6:33 am
Read Polish? If you do, mam coś dla ciebie: a Polish translation of my classic article, “Islam vs. Democracy.” Thanks to Bartosz Kumanek for the translation, and to the website
Sun, Jul 11 2004 6:26 am
Khalidi’s secret life? Two researchers at the Middle East Forum reveal something Rashid Khalidi may have forgotten: he was “a director of the [PLO-run] Palestinian press agency,” WAFA, in Beirut in 1982. At least that’s how Tom Friedman described him at the time. Khalidi denies it: he says he was teaching a full load at the American University of Beirut, and had no time for anything else. “I often spoke to journalists in Beirut, who usually cited me without attribution as a well-informed Palestinian source. If some misidentified me at the time, I am not aware of it.” Now if someone misidentified me in the New York Times—Tom Friedman, no less—I sure would be aware of it. So now I’m really curious: just what was Khalidi up to in Beirut in those years? If you know something I should know, drop me a line.
Fri, Jul 09 2004 9:40 am
Qaradawi and hijab. One of the highlights of Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi’s visit to London will be his address Monday to a conference of the Assembly for the Protection of the Hijab, meeting in London’s City Hall. It’s all in defense of the absolute right of Muslim women to wear the hijab. So it’s worth noting that Qaradawi does allow a pious woman to mix with unbelievers sans hijab, on one condition. She must be carrying out a suicide bombing against Israeli Jews. Qaradawi’s fatwa: “When necessary, she may take off her Hijab in order to carry out the operation, for she is going to die in the Cause of Allah and not to show off her beauty or uncover her hair. I don’t see any problem in her taking off Hijab in this case.” Glad that’s cleared up.
Fri, Jul 09 2004 9:18 am
Qaradawi and Tamimi. Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi doesn’t speak English, and his translator during his London visit is one Dr. Azzam Tamimi, a Palestinian Hamas activist with his own unsavory record of extremist statements. Read what I wrote about him almost two years ago.
Fri, Jul 09 2004 9:15 am
The real Qaradawi. I am trying to set blogger Abu Aardvark straight on Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi. I do it by highlighting some of Qaradawi’s most appalling legal edicts (fatwas), on such subjects as democracy, women suicide bombers, and “intellectual apostasy.” Dash over there and have a look.
Fri, Jul 09 2004 5:00 am
Chalabi in Iran. Even if you’re a Chalabi admirer, you gotta smile at this cartoon by Tom Toles. (Published a few weeks ago, and somehow eluded me. Apologies if you’ve seen it.)
Thu, Jul 08 2004 2:33 pm
Qaradawi and gays. Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, now visiting London (see right below) should be anathema to anyone appalled by suicide bombings against innocent Israelis. But Qaradawi may also be reviled for other reasons. Peter Tatchell, the UK’s leading gay rights campaigner, claims that Qaradawi has advocated the execution of homosexuals and should be banned from the country. “He should be treated as a political pariah.” Actually, Qaradawi hasn’t made up his mind about the punishment. “Should it be the same as the punishment for fornication,” he ruminates, “or should both the active and passive participants be put to death? While such punishments may seem cruel, they have been suggested to maintain the purity of the Islamic society and to keep it clean of perverted elements.”
Thu, Jul 08 2004 5:00 am
Qaradawi in Londonistan. Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi has arrived in London for conferences, and some Brits are on to him. The Qatar-based tele-Islamist is a staunch promoter of suicide bombings in Israel, which is why he’s banned from the United States. The British media and MPs from both benches are urging that Tony Blair expel him as an undesirable. The government says all his speeches will be monitored. “For over a third of a century I have been visiting London,” Qaradawi complains. “London is an open city, so why is there this row when I visit London today?” Well, a third of a century ago, he wasn’t a cheerleader for terrorism. Anyway, this is just a preface to a reminder that I once had a back-and-forth with the great sheikh in Qatar—over suicide bombings.
Thu, Jul 08 2004 4:14 am
More than one way. So advocacy groups get all lathered because HR3077 would mandate the Department of Education to do a national study of “foreign heritage language communities” (e.g., Arab-Americans). They think it’s a neocon cover for domestic espionage. (One association claims it would “erode the boundary between research and surveillance.”) But it’s really the idea of a New Jersey Democrat, Rep. Rush Holt, who wants to remedy the foreign language shortfall in government. So when HR3077 is delayed along with the Higher Education Act, Rush attaches his proposed study to the 2005 Intelligence Authorization Bill. Since it’s been moved from education to intelligence, guess who would be mandated to do the study? The CIA. And get this: No one has noticed. Ah, to be a Dem.
Wed, Jul 07 2004 6:10 pm
Exhibit A. The suspended commander of Abu Ghraib, Brig-Gen. Janis Karpinski, now claims she met an interrogator at the prison who told her: “I’m from Israel.” For Juan Cole, “Karpinski’s statement nails it down,” and he goes into another one of his anti-Israel seizures, laying Abu Ghraib, 9/11 and you-name-it at the feet of “the Likud.” Well, it nails nothing down. When it comes to the Qaeda-Saddam connection, Cole has demanded “the sort of evidence that would stand up in court.” But to nail Israel, this scrap is good enough. “In good journalism,” Cole once huffed, “you don’t go to print with a single uncorroborated source.” That’s right, but Cole’s weblog of innuendo regularly does just that. The guy seems bent on confirming all my claims about Middle Eastern studies. He’s becoming Exhibit A.
Mon, Jul 05 2004 3:51 pm
Justice in Baghdad. All the Mideast “experts” in the Bay area are lined up by the San Francisco Chronicle to warn that putting Saddam Hussein on trial in Iraq could backfire. It’s going to create more sympathy for him, and it would have been better to send him off to The Hague like Milosevic—that’s the view of Berkeley’s Nezar AlSayyad, head of that university’s Middle East center. So for AlSayyad and the others, here is an article from the Chronicle two years ago, on Serb reactions to the trial of Milosevic at The Hague. The proceedings set off a tremendous wave of sympathy for Milosevic, reported the paper, and it left Serb liberals infuriated at the prosecution. If public opinion is the issue, the Milosevic trial is no model. The Iraqis have to exorcise this jinn themselves.
Sat, Jul 03 2004 6:35 am
Said recycled. Tony Judt has written the introduction to another recycling of Edward Said’s political essays, and The Nation has published it. Only the last sentence tells a truth: “[Said] is irreplaceable.” He is, and no combination of Tony Judts can fill the void. More evidence is Judt’s own essay, which is boring and repetitive: Said’s acolytes obviously grew lazy while he did the thinking for them. Judt is stupified by America. It is, he writes, “the one place where official Israeli propaganda has succeeded beyond measure, and where Palestinian propaganda has utterly failed.” Let me help him out: you cannot build a culture on refusal, hatred, and martyrdom, and earn sympathy from America. Until this fact registers with Palestinians, no amount of Judts will make a jot of difference.
Fri, Jul 02 2004 4:54 am
Line in sand. I’ve been editing an issue (my last) of the Middle East Quarterly, which includes an article on cross-border smuggling and infiltration from Egypt into Gaza and Israel. In my search for appropriate illustrations, I came across this fascinating satellite photo. Caption: “The border between Israel and Egypt clearly separates different land management systems which are visible even from the satellite.”
Thu, Jul 01 2004 6:22 pm
Saddam on trial. Elie Kedourie advises us from beyond the grave on Saddam’s day in court.
Thu, Jul 01 2004 12:14 pm
Whirldwind tour. Paul Hollander once wrote a wonderful book, Political Pilgrims, about how intellectuals would go off to Soviet Russia or China or Cuba, meet a thin crust of smooth-talkers, and then make sweeping and inane generalizations about the sunny side of despotism. If someone ever does a comparable book on the Middle East, it should include this press junket of a dozen American newspaper editors to Beirut and Damascus. A date at the palace with the charming Bashar al-Assad, a tête à tête with that “gentle” Shiite Santa, Ayatollah Fadlallah, meetings with a few in-house dissidents. Bottom line: hey, “the Arabs” are even more pro-American than Europeans! (At least they like our culture.) If only we would dump our policies, they’d be in our pockets.
Thu, Jul 01 2004 5:00 am