Sandbox: September 2004

Intifada lessons. I’m on the road, with no time to post, so here’s just a pointer. Brig. Gen. Michael Herzog is an old friend who recently finished a stint as top military aid to Israeli defense minister Shaul Mofaz. He’s written a wise and balanced assessment of four years of Palestinian-Israeli war. Read part one.
Wed, Sep 29 2004 11:01 pm
Foucault’s folly. In France, they’ve been marking 20 years to the passing of Michel Foucault. In America and Britain, the followers of Edward Said are marking the one-year anniversary of his death. In English-speaking academe, Foucault and Said go together like knowledge and power. So read this timely dissection of Foucault’s folly: his take on the Iranian revolution, as it unfolded. Foucault (October 1978): “One thing must be clear. By ‘Islamic government,’ nobody in Iran means a political regime in which the clergy would have a role of supervision or control.” And there’s a lot more where that came from. Edward Said suffered from a milder case of the same myopia when it came to Islamism. Is there a pattern here?
Mon, Sep 27 2004 7:30 pm
Hate speech. Last month, a group called Mouths Wide Open put on a collaborative performance at Washington Square Church in Manhattan, as a counterpoint to the Republican convention. They performed mostly music and sketches, in protest against administration policy. The sympathic reviewer in the New York Times ended by mentioning the low point: “Hamid Dabashi [see right below] delivered an incendiary diatribe, propelled by hatred of Israel and the United States—not just the current government, but the culture in general—that seemed out of place in this program. Yet it drew a standing ovation. The finale, in which Dominic Veconi, a boy soprano, sang ‘How Can I Keep from Singing?’ seemed even stranger coming immediately after Mr. Dabashi’s speech.” Hate speech does have a way of spoiling art.
Sun, Sep 26 2004 1:52 am
Academic fraud. More from the execrable travelogue (see below) of Hamid Dabashi, the Hagop Kevorkian Professor of Iranian Studies at Columbia. “What they call ‘Israel’ is no mere military state. A subsumed militarism, a systemic mendacity with an ingrained violence constitutional to the very fusion of its fabric, has penetrated the deepest corners of what these people have to call their ‘soul’.” Now how did Dabashi manage to glimpse into the deepest corners of the non-soul of the so-called “Israelis”? He doesn’t know Hebrew. On his trip to the West Bank, he skipped all of Israel except the airport. He didn’t have a single encounter with an Israeli who wasn’t on security detail. Yet he presumes to know what resides in Israel’s “deepest corners.” Hamid Dabashi: academic fraud.
Sun, Sep 26 2004 1:51 am
Dabashi gets dirt. Hamid Dabashi, professor at Bir Zeit-on-Hudson (Columbia), sets off for Jerusalem to get a clump of earth to place on the grave of Edward Said in Lebanon. On this, his first visit, he has no contact with Israel and Israelis, except for soldiers on guard duty and security guards at the airport. But he can see into Israel’s being with x-ray vision. “Half a century of systematic maiming and murdering of another people has left its deep marks on the faces of these people, the way they talk, the way they walk, the way they handle objects, the way they greet each other, the way they look at the world. There is an endemic prevarication to this machinery, a vulgarity of character that is bone-deep and structural to the skeletal vertebrae of its culture.” The passage is antisemitic.
Sat, Sep 25 2004 12:31 am
Vote MESA. In the spirit of democracy and mischief, I’m conducting a poll to see who’s the favorite in the elections for president of the Middle East Studies Association (MESA). It’s over at Sandstorm, on the sidebar. Your choices are pretty limited: Juan Cole or Fred Donner. You don’t have to be a member of MESA to join in the poll, but members are especially welcome. Needless to say, the poll ain’t scientific. Just good, clean fun. Read up on the candidates here.
Wed, Sep 22 2004 6:44 pm
The Big Lie. One William Fisher, journalist, has written an article on HR3077 for the Middle East Times. Fisher: “Big Brother will come in the form of an ‘advisory board’, which would have at least two appointees representing national security agencies. The board would oversee curricula, course materials, and even the hiring of faculty at institutions that accept federal government money for international studies.” Every claim in these two sentences is a bald lie. (The second sentence is refuted by the plain English of HR3077: “Nothing in this title shall be construed to authorize the board to mandate, direct, or control an institution of higher education’s specific instructional content, curriculum, or program of instruction.”) To dispel the lies, Congress should pass the bill.
Tue, Sep 21 2004 5:07 pm
Impact of Terror. Last night, CNN Presents broadcast Tim Wolochatiuk’s Impact of Terror, a documentary film on the 2001 suicide bombing of the Sbarro pizzeria in Jerusalem. The terrorist attack killed 15 innocents (seven of them children). One of the film’s merits is that it makes no mention at all of the bomber’s identity or his motive. It’s the fashion in documentaries to juxtapose bomber and victim. This is the profound moral failing of Simone Bitton’s The Bombing, a travesty predicated on a false symmetry, casting the perpetrators as victims. Suicide bombers deserve documentaries—completely separate ones. (See, for example, Suicide Bombers by Tom Roberts, shown by PBS over the summer.) CNN will broadcast Impact of Terror again this coming Saturday, 8pm and 11pm Eastern.
Mon, Sep 20 2004 5:52 pm
Woody, vénéré. So over the weekend I’m passing through Frankfurt airport, and I pick up a copy of Le Monde, and here’s an article about Woody Allen at a film festival in Spain, telling a press conference that Bush’s reelection would be a tragedy. Minor news interest, right? (Not one U.S. paper picked it up). But the Allen item is on page one of Le Monde. France and America: clash of civilizations.
Mon, Sep 20 2004 4:59 pm
French questions. Over the weekend, Richard Cohen wrote a piece for the International Herald Tribune on the French hostage crisis. As I did earlier in the Sandbox, he recalls that this is the second time around for Jacques Chirac on French hostages. Earlier instance: Lebanon, mid-1980s. Since then, France has bowed deeply to Arab public opinion, especially on Palestine and Iraq—but not deeply enough. “The kidnappers scoff at the view of France as friend,” writes Cohen. They say it is the enemy of the Muslims, for backing the Algerian regime against Islamists, for banning headscarves in public schools, and so on. Bottom line: “Chirac desperately needs to do better this time or he will face what he has up to now avoided: intense questioning on French Middle East policy.” Wouldn’t that be refreshing?
Mon, Sep 20 2004 4:40 pm
Bernard Lewis on Jewishness. Read this reflection by Bernard Lewis on Jewish identity. He opens with a personal vignette.
Mon, Sep 20 2004 4:14 pm
“Money was diverted.” After Peter Hoekstra’s appointment as chair of the House Intelligence Committee (see below), he gave the interview at the main link. Q: “Experts say there is still a critical lack of translators of Arabic and other languages. Why isn’t there a greater sense of urgency on these issues?” Hoekstra: “As Congress was appropriating money for languages and these kinds of things, sometimes this money was diverted to go into other areas. There has been a lot of emphasis but sometimes not a lot of results. That is a problem, and Congress shares some of the blame for that.” I italicized the first line because it alludes to academe’s diversion of Title VI money away from languages. And the second, because it points to the solution: more Congressional oversight.
Sat, Sep 18 2004 3:15 pm
Hoekstra and HR3077. The author of HR3077, the Title VI reform bill, is Rep. Peter Hoekstra, a Michigan Republican. The bill’s critics usually fail to mention him at all, as though he were some sort of droid acting on behalf of Stanley Kurtz or me. That’s a dumb mistake, because HR3077 is his idea. Now Hoekstra’s stature has risen: last month, he was named chair of the House Intelligence Committee. (He fills the place vacated by Rep. Porter Goss, Bush’s choice for CIA director.) Hoekstra has been to Iraq four times over the past year. He’s razor sharp, and he’s determined to improve this country’s intelligence. He wrote and introduced HR3077 because the U.S. needs a demonstrable return on its investment in academe. Now that Chairman Hoekstra is Mr. Intelligence in the House, his bill will benefit.
Tue, Sep 14 2004 12:29 pm
Tinfoil cap. I can’t help quoting Eli Lake‘s NYSun column from last week on the conspiracy theorists who’ve come out of the woodwork in the Larry Franklin affair (a case so murky, it hasn’t got a name). Lake cites a few far-out examples, but names Juan Cole as “taking the cake for outrageous libel.” Lake: “Only a few years ago, Mr. Cole’s blather might be consigned to that corner of the Internet reserved for tinfoil-capped witnesses of alien landings and the self-appointed investigators of the British royal family’s drug cartels. But it is a sign of the times that Mr. Cole is appearing as a commentator on National Public Radio and has been quoted in the Washington Post and has spoken before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.” Lake joins Andrew Sullivan (see below) as a Cole-burner.
Tue, Sep 14 2004 7:45 am
Come over from Slate? If you’ve arrived here via a link from Lee Smith’s article at Slate, he’s referring to the entry “France held hostage” from September 6. Scroll down in this box.
Tue, Sep 14 2004 5:46 am
Same analysis, different diagnosis. Gilles Kepel wrote a piece last week for the Financial Times. (The main link is to a reprint elsewhere.) He argues that Al-Qaeda is at an impasse. The Taliban are out, the U.S. occupies Baghdad, Hamas is stuck behind a fence. In seizing the school in Beslan and abducting French journalists in Iraq, the jihadists sought new “modes of action that will trigger mass mobilization.” I’ll go with him that far. But then he claims that the Russians (and Americans) have missed the point by using force. Far wiser the French, whose restraint has let Muslim opinion build against the jihadists. Here I part with Kepel. Beslan has done more to split Muslim opinion. And the French have mortgaged their foreign policy to win Muslim sympathy. No model there—for a great power.
Mon, Sep 13 2004 8:41 am
1683 and all that. In July, Bernard Lewis gave an interview to the German daily Die Welt. (It’s been translated into 12 languages, but not English. It’s summarized in English here.) In closing, he made this mega-prediction: Europe will have a Muslim majority by the end of the 21st century. It will become an Islamic extension of Arab North Africa. Sequel: EU single market commissioner Frits Bolkestein (Netherlands) gave a speech the other day, quoting Lewis to argue against Turkey’s inclusion in the EU. “I do not know if Lewis is right,” said Bolkestein, “or whether it will be at that speed, but if he is right, the liberation of Vienna in 1683 would have been in vain.” Lewis himself has said, “I don’t see a hope in hell of Turkey being admitted” to the EU—unless the EU “becomes a Muslim state.” And he is Turkey’s friend.
Mon, Sep 13 2004 4:05 am
9/11 context. Three years later, the context of 9/11 is still a contested issue. On September 16, 2001, I published my first take on the attacks, offered here at the main link. I have reread it, and I would not change a word of it. I wrote it at a moment when my academic colleagues were desperately repeating the mantra that the attacks had nothing to do with any extant reading of Islam. (Juan Cole, speaking a full two weeks after 9/11: “I’ve spent 30 years now studying Islam and this scenario does not sound to me like Islamic fundamentalism…it doesn’t sound to me like it has anything to do with Islam.”) I like to think that we understand more about 9/11 than we did in those first days and weeks. But the misunderstandings, many of them deliberate, keep resurfacing. The work must go on.
Sun, Sep 12 2004 4:11 am
Our Muslim brothers. The Washington Post runs a thorough piece on the international Muslim Brotherhood. There’s a contradiction at its heart: the reporters, John Mintz and Douglas Farah, bring all the evidence of the Brotherhood’s links to terrorism, and the “experts” are all quoted as believing the U.S. should engage it anyway. “It is the preeminent movement in the Muslim world,” former CIA official Graham Fuller tells them. “It’s something we can work with.” I thought the U.S. had worked with the Brotherhood, in Afghanistan in the 1980s, and in return got the first World Trade Center bombing. Of course, Fuller also thought it possible to work with Khomeini, and provided the intellectual framework for U.S.-encouraged arms sales to Iran. I tell his story here.
Sat, Sep 11 2004 5:53 pm
Book updates. Head over to the Sandstorm page, and scroll down to the new book updates box. In the box, you’ll find four things: (1) a list of new releases on the Middle East, to which one or two new items will be added daily (with links to Amazon); (2) links to new reviews of Middle East-related books in major media; (3) Amazon’s top seller list for the Middle East; and (4) another top seller or featured list from Amazon, which I select according to circumstances (this week, it’s 9/11). This is beta for sure. It’s a Rube Goldberg machine. If at first the box doesn’t load, refresh, refresh again.
Sat, Sep 11 2004 1:30 pm
News and weather. The news feeds on the Sandstorm/News page are meant to provide you with a quick way to track the reports in a wide range of news sources, from the The New York Times to NPR, from to Haaretz. There are almost fifty feeds, all devoted exclusively to the Middle East or a part of it. But what if the feeds still leave you hungry? Now you can just scroll to the bottom of the page, and use the search box for Google News. Try it out. (If you don’t enter a search term, you get the top stories generally.) So bookmark the page, and start your day here. Also have a look at the weather outlook map for the Middle East. It updates automatically, twice a day.
Fri, Sep 10 2004 11:59 am
Kepel coming. Gilles Kepel, the French Islamicist (the French have this wonderful term, islamologue), is coming to the U.S. promote his new book, The War for Muslim Minds. Here’s my review of his last book. If you are on the invitation list of The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, make a note now: Kepel and Kramer share the podium, September 24, noon.
Fri, Sep 10 2004 10:54 am
Requiem. Belated word reaches me from North Carolina, of the passing in April of the composer and recorder virtuoso Tui St. George Tucker. Each summer of my youth, I attended a small boy’s camp where she served as music director. (The camp was directed by the beloved classicist and German-language poet Vera Lachmann.) Tui’s obit: “With fiery red hair and an explosive temper that coincided with her Dionysian lust for life, Tui seared an enduring impression on the campers. The children were often elevated to musical greatness, performing such works as Bach’s Magnificat, and Handel’s Messiah, and even performing at New York’s Town Hall. At least two-dozen of the boys from Camp Catawba have gone on to become professional musicians.” Not I, but the impression has endured. Rest in peace.
Fri, Sep 10 2004 10:53 am
No comment. I’ve been using a comments add-on called Haloscan, which allows readers to post their comments. When Haloscan’s server is down, pages on which its comments feature is implemented don’t load at all. So Sandstorm and Sandbox were completely down this morning. It’s not the first time, and it’s no good. So I’ve expunged Haloscan, and we’ll do without comments until something better comes along. Addendum: Did some quick math: less than one out of every thousand visitors leaves a comment. So I think I’ll join Juan Cole and Daniel Pipes on this one, and dispense with comments altogether. Of course, I’m always eager to hear from readers (many more write than post comments). Mail me from the home page.
Thu, Sep 9 2004 7:45 am
Who’s selective? Zachary Lockman, in his rebuttal to me (see below), writes this: “Kramer claims in Ivory Towers that U.S. Middle East scholars have repeatedly made predictions that did not come true. His accusations are sometimes on target, though he is rather selective. He does not, for example, take his colleague Daniel Pipes to task for inaccurately predicting in the early 1980s that Islamist activism would decline as oil prices fell.” First: I took Pipes to task for that analysis 20 years ago, when I reviewed his book In the Path of God. Read the last three paragraphs of my review. Second: Pipes had the decency to admit error when events went against him. After 9/11, the academic establishment did the opposite, denying all error. Intellectual honesty? I’ll prefer Pipes any day.
Wed, Sep 8 2004 6:05 pm 
NGOs against Israel. In my last issue as editor of the Middle East Quarterly, I published this eye-opening study by Gerald M. Steinberg, entitled “NGOs Make War on Israel.” It’s just gone up on the web. Steinberg: “Major NGOs such as Human Rights Watch, Amnesty, and Christian Aid, working closely with the media and groups such as the U.N. Human Rights Commission, have been instrumental in promoting the Palestinian political agenda, using the terminology of international law.” The blight of political advocacy extends even to Save the Children. Like academics, NGOs believe themselves to be above scrutiny, not to speak of accountability. Steinberg is campaigning to change that.
Wed, Sep 8 2004 5:29 pm
France held hostage. This matter of the French journalists held hostage in Iraq has prompted me to post a review article I published in 1990. The title: “France Held Hostage.” Back then, it was Hizbullah that held France hostage, grabbing journalists and other Frenchmen in Beirut. Jacques Chirac called the shots then too, and the current episode looks a bit like a reenactment. The difference: the pro-Iranian hostage-takers in the 1980s had a real grievance, France’s heavy pro-Iraq tilt. (Iran and Iraq were at war.) Those earlier hostages suffered long, and one of them died a miserable death, but France eventually cut a deal. That may be why France now finds itself held hostage again.
Mon, Sep 6 2004 6:00 pm
Hizbullah redux. Earlier I had mentioned Daniel Sobelman’s study of the rules that govern the “game” between Israel and Hizbullah. It’s now on the web. After explaining the rules, Sobelman concludes that they might have been made to be broken: “It is likely that the day is approaching when restraint by both sides on the northern border will not be enough to preserve stability, either because of an Israeli initiative to attack Hizbullah or because of a response to provocation attributed to the organization in the Palestinian context.” (The reference is to Hizbullah’s active incitement and promotion of Palestinian terrorism.)
Mon, Sep 6 2004 5:14 pm
Cole on a roll. Yeah, I know, I really should stop commenting on Juan Cole’s commentary. It’s just that it gets more outlandish by the day—he must have gone off his medication. And he so perfectly demonstrates my case against the Middle East studies establishment that I am drawn to him like a moth to a flame, like a kid to a candy store, like… Anyway, after another update on what he calls the “AIPAC spy case,” Cole delivers an out-of-the-blue tirade against Waled Phares, a media-savvy prof at Florida Atlantic U. “The FBI should investigate how Phares, an undistinguished academic with links to far rightwing Lebanese groups and the Likud clique, became the ‘terrorism analyst’ at MSNBC.” This is not meant as a joke: an earlier post suggested that Bernard Lewis be investigated (see below). Juan Edgar Hoover.
Sun, Sep 5 2004 5:44 pm
Sullivan on Cole. Andrew Sullivan takes Juan Cole to task, for his “glib and easy assignment of ulterior motives and bad faith.” Cole makes “unproven accusations that this administration is deliberately working against the interests of this country. If you ask me, that’s why the far-left Middle East academic elite has had so little influence over this debate. Their shrillness crowds out their expertise.” Cole responds rather meekly (Sullivan too big?), then makes this lament: “I mean, sure, I situate myself on the left side of the aisle, but ‘far left’? What could that mean? Isn’t it just name-calling?” Well, just the other day, Cole called me an “extremist.” I may be a few degrees right of center, but an “extremist”? Hardly. Name-calling. Cole gets a dose of his own—and he whines.
Sun, Sep 5 2004 3:02 pm 
The antidote. Zachary Lockman’s new book, Contending Visions of the Middle East: The History and Politics of Orientalism, is now out from Cambridge. It wasn’t conceived as such, but it will be used in universities (and maybe beyond) as the antidote to my Ivory Towers on Sand. (About ten pages are entirely devoted to refuting it.) Read the table of contents, the introduction, and the index of Lockman’s book. I’ll have more to say later.
Sat, Sep 4 2004 7:49 am 
Colecism. In one of Juan Cole’s postings yesterday, he speculates on the doings of “Israeli arms merchants connected to the government in Tel Aviv.” Actually, the government of Israel sits in Jerusalem, not Tel Aviv. The Knesset convenes, the cabinet deliberates, and the prime minister sits in Jerusalem. The “government in Tel Aviv” is a stock phrase in Arabic, usually employed to avoid mentioning Israel (as in “the government of Israel”), or simply to deny any association between Israel and Jerusalem. Sometimes a small slip tells a lot, and Cole’s slip tells us this: his vantage point on Israel isn’t just Arabist, it’s Arabic.
Thu, Sep 2 2004 9:41 am
Frozen feeds. The newsfeeds on the Sandbox/News page of this site are frozen in time (as of yesterday, Wednesday evening). Hopefully the problem will clear itself up soon. Update: Feeds are unfrozen! The news is current.
Thu, Sep 2 2004 4:00 am
Fadlallah condemns. Grand Ayatollah Muhammad Husayn Fadlallah, in Beirut, is getting some press for his take on the kidnapping of the two French journalists in Iraq. He’s agin’ it. This recalls his position in the 1980s, when he opposed the abduction of foreign journalists in Lebanon. The bad news is that Fadlallah’s condemnations didn’t count for much even in Lebanon. Terry Anderson, the American journalist, was abducted the day after he met with Fadlallah. The cleric immediately called for his release—and Anderson spent seven years as a hostage. Fadlallah endorsed an appeal for the release of a kidnapped French scholar, Michel Seurat, who was pro-Palestinian. Seurat died of disease in captivity. Not a good record. At the main link: my article (1990) treating Fadlallah and hostages.
Wed, Sep 1 2004 1:20 pm
Investigate Lewis! Juan Cole isn’t happy that the FBI’s Pentagon leak investigation is focused on Larry Franklin, who isn’t even…you know. To Cole’s mind, the “conspiracy of warmongering and aggression” includes not just Franklin’s Pentagon associates, not just AIPAC, but The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Daniel Pipes, and, yes, Bernard Lewis. Today Cole retails a “tip” from an unnamed source, on Lewis’s supposed influence over a Defense Department appointment. Cole’s tipster: “Were there ever to be a serious investigation of the Israeli infiltration of the Pentagon (unlikely, of course), one would certainly have to examine Bernard Lewis’s role here.” (Left-wing nuts call Lewis an Israeli agent; the right-wingers still think he’s MI5.) I guess this chart of the plot will have to be expanded.
Wed, Sep 1 2004 12:30 pm