Sandbox: October 2004

The Chairman and I. “When the helicopter carrying the frail old man rose above his ruined compound, I started to cry…. Palestinians admired his refusal to flee under fire. They told me: ‘Our leader is sharing our pain, we are all under the same siege’. And so was I.” These aren’t the words of an activist of the International Solidarity Movement. They belong to Barbara Plett, BBC correspondent in the West Bank. She’s not just teary-eyed, she’s disappointed that the Palestinians haven’t rallied to her hero. “Where were the people, I wondered, the mass demonstrations of solidarity, the frantic expressions of concern?” Well, Barbara, maybe the Palestinians have moved on, and you missed the story. It’s time for some real reportage out of Ramallah, and the BBC should have someone else do it.
Sun, Oct 31 2004 6:55 pm
Psy-Cole-gize. Juan Cole tries to blame 9/11 on Ariel Sharon via Ziad Jarrah, the Lebanese hijacker-pilot of the plane that went down in western Pennsylvania. Jarrah “was eight when the Israelis invaded his country [in 1982] and wrought so much destruction. He obviously was deeply traumatized by the experience.” Obviously? Jarrah wasn’t a traumatized kid. His well-to-do family says he was shielded from the hardships of war and showed no interest in politics. He became a well-adjusted and fun-loving teenager, attended Christian schools, and had career aspirations in engineering and aviation. The 9/11 Commission says he only showed signs of radicalization in Germany, after falling under the spell of fanatics in Hamburg. Jarrah’s case points to the kind of reprogramming that happens in cults. There’s no evidence for childhood trauma of any kind. Cole just made it up.
Sun, Oct 31 2004 2:48 pm
Cole, boycotter. Juan Cole, last week: “I urge academics and others to boycott the United States Institute of Peace this year, as long as extremist ideologue Daniel Pipes serves on it.” (Pipes, it will be recalled, is one of sixteen members of the Institute’s board of directors. His term ends in a few months.) This (belated) call to boycott a nonpartisan federal institution mandated by Congress is an incredibly irresponsible statement from a candidate for the presidency of the Middle East Studies Association (MESA). If the extremist ideologue Juan Cole has been elected MESA’s president (we will know that shortly), I’ll urge academics and others to boycott the association as long as he serves on its board—as president-elect, as president, and as past-president. Perhaps what this country needs is more than one association for Middle Eastern studies.
Sun, Oct 31 2004 2:11 am
Said and Arendt. Over twenty years ago, a biographer of Hannah Arendt mistakenly wrote that Arendt had contributed funds to the extremist Jewish Defense League (Meir Kahane), when in fact she had given to the very mundane United Jewish Appeal. In 1985, Edward Said wrote an article repeating the error and citing the biography as his source. The guilt-ridden biographer wrote to Said to explain that it was all a mistake, and asked Said to set the record straight if he ever republished his essay, for the sake of Arendt’s reputation. Said never answered the entreaty, and he republished the essay the following year, without a correction. Full story at link.
Sun, Oct 31 2004 12:01 am
After Arafat. In the spring issue of the Middle East Quarterly, we published a prescient piece by Barry Rubin, entitled “After Arafat.” It’s the best and most thorough assessment anywhere. And in the new, fall issue of the journal, see the article on “Arafat’s Swiss Bank Account” by Palestinian banker and dissident Issam Abu Issa. (This is the first issue edited by the journal’s new editor, Michael Rubin, and he’s off to a flying start.)
Sat, Oct 30 2004 11:39 am
Cole calculation. Juan Cole, who for all we know may be president-elect of the Middle East Studies Association, jumped up and down in excitement over the Lancet report and its claim that about 100,000 Iraqis have died in the war. So “Across the Bay,” a sharp weblog, jumps up and down on Cole. Recommended reading.
Sat, Oct 30 2004 11:11 am
MESA poll. You can’t trust the polls, and you certainly can’t trust my own Middle East Studies Association (MESA) presidential poll, which has now come to a close. Only 63 people voted, revealing a high degree of apathy. The results:

Fred Donner, 71 percent (45 votes)
Juan Cole, 29 percent (18 votes)

Margin of error: enormous. I haven’t expressed a preference, and I’ll announce the actual results when MESA announces them. (The real elections also ended today.)
Fri, Oct 29 2004 4:14 pm

Dump Dabashi. “I have intimidated no one. Neither Columbia University nor I have ever received a complaint from any student.” That’s Joseph Massad, accused Columbia prof, to The New York Times. Well, say you did have a complaint about Massad’s intimidating you over Israel. Proper procedure: go to the departmental chair. That would be Hamid Dabashi. And this is what Dabashi wrote about Israel just last month: “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’.” Massad’s abuses were made possible by Dabashi’s indulgence, as everyone at Columbia knows. Back in March 2003, I urged the department’s members to “dump Dabashi” from the chair. Columbia’s investigation should include him, and draw the necessary conclusions if he’s found to be complicit.
Fri, Oct 29 2004 2:09 pm
Festering bias. Now a tenured Columbia professor has emerged, claiming that students have been coming to him “for years” to complain about humiliation at the hands of faculty, and that the anti-Israel bias in the Middle East department has had “anti-Jewish overtones.” So says Dan Miron, a professor of Hebrew literature in the Department of Middle East and Asian Languages and Cultures. He says he’s heard complaints about once a week, from students mocked or shouted down by their professors. “Israel is singled out in a way that is racist,” he told the New York Sun. “The needs of Israel, the legitimate concerns of Israel, are never taken into account.” Columbia’s response to the problem has been “very weak.” Miron’s words are a major breach in the wall of silence that has protected faculty abusers. Columbia president Lee Bollinger promises an investigation; thanks to Miron, it will be harder to do a whitewash.
Fri, Oct 29 2004 1:19 pm
Massad petition. Down below I wrote that the tendentious petition in support of Joseph Massad was drafted by an English prof at the University of Texas, one Neville Hoad. Hoad has been pushing the petition, but it’s actually the work of As’ad AbuKhalil, California State University, Stanislaus, who’s the first signatory and who announced on his website that he’d be preparing it. It’s AbuKhalil who concocted the deceptive claim that Massad has “written courageously in Arabic and English against anti-Semitism and anti-Semites.” I’ve read through the signatories of the petition, and recognize very few names. Alas for Massad, the doyens of Middle Eastern studies aren’t rallying around him, even at Columbia.
Thu, Oct 28 2004 10:47 pm
Zion envy. Today’s New York Sun reports this tidbit from the David Project film on intimidation of students by Columbia faculty. “A Columbia student, Noah Liben, recalls a class he had with Mr. [Joseph] Massad in spring 2001 during which the professor, while making the argument that Zionism is a male-dominated movement, told students that the Hebrew word zion means ‘penis’. Zion actually means a ‘designated area or sign post’, which sounds similar to zayin, which means a weapon or penis.” In fact, the two words don’t even sound similar in Hebrew, because they don’t have the same root: Zion is pronounced tsiyon. It’s hard to know what is more risible here: Massad’s ignorance of Hebrew orthography or his perverse mode of analysis. When Bernard Lewis wrote that the Arabic word for revolution, thawra, came from a root also meaning the stirring of a camel, Edward Said claimed Lewis was hinting “that the Arab is scarcely more than a neurotic sexual being.” Ridiculous, but Massad really does practice just this kind of sex-philology. What’s pathetic is that he’s applied it to a language he doesn’t know, and to a word he can’t even spell.
Thu, Oct 28 2004 11:44 am
The Massad file. For your reading convenience, I’ve concentrated my various commentaries on Joseph Massad in one place.
Wed, Oct 27 2004 5:59 pm
MESA elections. The official balloting for president of the Middle East Studies Association (MESA) closes at 7pm Eastern time on Friday. That’s when I’ll close down my MESA poll, on the sidebar of the Sandstorm page. Make sure to cast your real ballot and/or your poll ballot before then. It will be fascinating to see whether there is any correlation between the two results.
Wed, Oct 27 2004 5:09 pm
Columbia twists. The Columbia Spectator runs an article on Columbia’s response to the David Project exposé on faculty harassment of students. University deans met to discuss the crisis, and the David Project will release the film to the public today, in a screening at a press conference. I haven’t seen the film. But my own criticism of Middle Eastern studies at Columbia has never depended on specific claims of harassment. It goes much deeper, to the systemic faculty bias that has bent the curriculum and driven one-sided appointments. Unfortunately, my approach hasn’t cut much ice, because Columbia has continued to deny the problem. So the university administration brought the film upon itself, and I’m delighted to see it twist in the wind.
Wed, Oct 27 2004 11:31 am
Massad distorted. Neville Hoad, an assistant professor of English at the University of Texas, is the author of a petition in support of Joseph Massad, whose alleged intimidation of students figures in a documentary exposé on the clique that runs Middle Eastern studies at Columbia. Massad, Hoad writes, “has courageously written in Arabic and in English against anti-Semitism and anti-Semites.” Wait a minute. It’s Massad’s contention that Zionism is anti-Semitism: he’s written in Arabic and English against Zionist anti-Semitism. That’s a perverse variation on the Zionism=Nazism equation. (Indeed, Massad has compared Ariel Sharon to Goebbels.) No courage here, just crude defamation of a nation. I’ll be watching who signs this tendentious and misleading petition, which seeks to silence legitimate criticism of hate speech.
Tue, Oct 26 2004 6:01 pm
AIPAC Summit. I’m back from the AIPAC summit in Florida (right below). Here’s an accurate report. This was the biggest turnout ever for a national summit, and Richard Holbrooke and Condoleezza Rice competed for the attendees’ applause. Holbrooke and Rice both struck the right notes. But I can’t understand why Holbrooke thinks a U.S. peace process envoy wouldn’t allow a back-door reentry of Arafat. (Sharon advisor Dov Weissglas, in a satellite Q&A, poured cold water on the envoy idea.) As for Rice, two years ago I wrote that “my eyes glaze over” when I hear her “wax eloquent on the coming ‘march of democracy’ in the Arab world.” Well, my eyes were glazing over again. The low point: remarks by Kerry Mideast adviser Mel Levine, who was way too partisan and got booed for it. A fascinating weekend (and the new Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, where it all happened, is a sight to see). Update: Rice dismisses Holbrooke’s envoy idea.
Tue, Oct 26 2004 2:16 pm
Policy and politics. Last weekend, I attended the annual conference of The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, where Middle East advisors of both presidential candidates made programmatic speechs. Here’s the speech by Stephen Hadley, deputy national security advisor, and here’s the speech by Wendy Sherman, senior foreign policy adviser to the Kerry-Edwards campaign. You decide. I’ll be in Hollywood, Florida on Sunday and Monday, for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Summit. Middle East speeches will be delivered by national security advisor Condoleezza Rice and by Kerry’s top foreign policy advisor Richard Holbrooke. More details here. (I’m in a break-out session on human rights and reform in the Arab world.) I’ll return to the Sandbox sometime next week.
Fri, Oct 22 2004 4:46 pm
Eyeless at Columbia. Today’s New York Sun also runs an editorial on the situation at Columbia (last four posts), under the headline “Bollinger’s Blindness.” I share its premises. Columbia (which I once nicknamed Bir Zeit-on-Hudson) has a Middle East faculty that’s run like a private club, and a higher administration long mired in denial. Columbia’s President Bollinger now must lead, and there’s no reason for donors to bail him out by rewarding Columbia’s negligence. Joseph Massad (see below) has to go, and Columbia must return the money contributed by the United Arab Emirates toward the Edward Said Chair—a tainted gift that stains the university. The newspaper is wrong to call for “disciplining” the Said Professor, Rashid Khalidi, for “errors in his [latest] book.” That’s the job of reviewers and other scholars, who should think twice about appearing at the Middle East Institute under his management. But the rest of the agenda is just right.
Fri, Oct 22 2004 1:34 pm
Let Columbia stew. The New York Daily News also weighs in with an editorial on the Columbia situation (see previous). The paper notes that Columbia president Lee Bollinger “is raising money to endow two professorships, one a chair in Israeli studies and the other for visiting professors from Israel. That effort has gone on for months. Clearly, faster action is needed.” I disagree. Donors should keep Columbia at bay, until Bollinger begins to clean out the stables, and proposes a way to insulate any new appointments from the legions of tenured radicals who will try to hijack them. Otherwise, these professorships could turn out disastrously, as they did at Berkeley.
Fri, Oct 22 2004 1:14 pm
Columbia’s Massad problem. The New York Sun reports that Congressman Anthony Weiner, a Democrat of Brooklyn and Queens, has written to Columbia president Lee Bollinger, urging him to “fire” Joseph Massad. This is in response to the David Project’s short film on faculty intimidation of students at Columbia (see the entry before last), where Massad is spotlighted. I sincerely hope that Columbia will have the good sense not to tenure Massad, who is a pseudo-scholar, but I’m not sure letters from politicians are the way to get there. The opinion of serious scholars matters more. In this regard, have a look at Prof. Asher Susser’s review of Massad’s book Colonial Effects: The Making of National Identity in Jordan (scroll down; it’s the fourth review). Susser, who’s a renowned authority on Jordan, finds Massad guilty of “ideological bias,” “factual distortion and sheer invention.”
Fri, Oct 22 2004 12:44 pm
Just Khalidi’s facts, ma’am. The Columbia Spectator runs a puff piece on Rashid Khalidi, Edward Said Professor and director of Columbia’s Middle East Institute. It ends with quotes from two students who took his seminar on “Orientalism and Historiography” last semester. Student A: “He taught me that you can’t take anything at its face value. Everyone has a bias, and everyone has an agenda.” Student B: “One of the most important things he teaches is the importance of being grounded in the facts. Anyone who talks to him, or reads him, figures out that he’s not trying to argue any one point. He’s just trying to get at the facts.” Does it not appear that these two students took away opposite conclusions from Khalidi’s course? Or maybe the message of Khalidi’s teaching is this: everyone else has an agenda; only Rashid Khalidi has the facts.
Thu, Oct 21 2004 11:34 am
Columbia exposed. “Columbia Abuzz Over Underground Film”—that’s the headline of this New York Sun story on a short documentary film, in which Jewish students talk of faculty intimidation over Israel. It’s been viewed by Columbia’s provost and Barnard’s president; the latter is reported to have said that the film emotionally affected her. The chief cause of complaint, not surprisingly, is Joseph Massad, who’s up for tenure this year. The article notes that Columbia’s own internal review of bias had turned up nothing (not surprising, given the university’s history of denial), so the David Project, producer of the film, has scored a hit. When I’ve seen it, I’ll say more.
Wed, Oct 20 2004 6:15 pm
Pilger’s progress. It’s incredible, but documentary filmmaker, journalist, and propagandist John Pilger is doing a stint as a Frank H. T. Rhodes Class of ’56 Professor at Cornell. Pilger is one of the West’s only overt supporters of the Iraqi “resistance.” (“We cannot afford to be choosy. While we abhor and condemn the continuing loss of innocent life in Iraq, we have no choice now but to support the resistance.”) He’s said this, of Michael Moore’s work: “I don’t think that they’re particularly radical films.” Pilger’s films are just that, and this evening, he’ll be presenting one of them: “Paying the Price: Killing the Children of Iraq,” his pre-war indictment of sanctions. (I reviewed it here.) It was this kind of distortion that undercut sanctions, making continued containment of Saddam a losing proposition. Pilger helped to precipitate the war he now reviles. Does he sleep at night? (And was Cornell’s Board of Trustees asleep when they appointed him?)
Wed, Oct 20 2004 12:35 pm
Kurtz on Hoekstra. Stanley Kurtz interprets Rep. Peter Hoekstra’s Title VI op-ed (see right below): “The real significance of Congressman Hoekstra’s piece is that it sends a political signal. HR3077 passed the House unanimously, yet it’s been held up in the Senate by the higher education lobby. Hoekstra notes that this is a last chance for the Senate to pass the bill. Implicitly, Hoekstra is warning that he is not going to give up on the effort to reform area studies. In fact, we know from his remarks…[to Slate’s Lee Smith] that Hoekstra’s next bill may be a far more difficult pill for the academy to swallow. So in effect, Hoekstra’s piece on NRO today is a shot across the bow of the academy: ‘Stop blocking HR 3077, or risk far worse next year’.”
Tue, Oct 19 2004 11:21 am
Hoekstra 3077. Critics of HR3077, the International Studies in Higher Education Act, have portrayed the bill as a neoconservative ploy to take over academe. In fact, it’s a bipartisan Congressional initiative to restore some accountability to Title VI. Its author, Rep. Peter Hoekstra, a Michigan Republican and newly-appointed chair of the House Intelligence Committee, today publishes an important op-ed that rebuts what he calls the “doomsday” scenarios of academe. He also urges the Senate to act on the bill. My advice to academe: don’t underestimate Hoekstra, and stop lying about his bill. He doesn’t appreciate that, and you’ll need his good will to get Title VI reauthorized.
Mon, Oct 18 2004 9:53 pm
Assassins! I gave a lecture a few years ago on “Nation and Assassination in the Middle East,” at a conference of the Yitzhak Rabin Center in Israel. It’s in the summer Middle East Quarterly, and now it’s on the web. Before you complain that I didn’t include Israel and the Rabin assassination: others dealt with it in several other panels. (By the way, Bernard Lewis’s presentation on my panel was recently published in his collected volume, From Babel to Dragomans. It’s chapter ten, “Religion and Murder in the Middle East.” He covers an earlier period.)
Mon, Oct 18 2004 6:29 pm
Irresponsible me. The journal International Affairs (Chatham House) has published a belated review essay by Fred Halliday on my book Ivory Towers on Sand. The book, writes Halliday, “is contestable, disappointing from a person of [Kramer’s] scholarly and academic standing, and, on many of the issues he touches, irresponsible. This book…distorts the contemporary state of Middle Eastern studies and has, as it would appear to have been intended to have, deleterious consequences for university life itself.” Oh well. I gave it my best. At a later point, I’ll hack away at this review, but let it not be said that I don’t give my critics a platform. Click here.
Mon, Oct 18 2004 4:51 pm
More intifada lessons. Two weeks ago I linked to part one of Brig. Gen. Michael Herzog’s retrospective on four years of Israeli-Palestinian war. Here is part two, published today.
Thu, Oct 14 2004 3:19 pm
Professor PaleStein. If you’d like to read more from Duke’s Professor Rebecca Stein, a featured speaker at the conference of the Palestine Solidarity Movement (see right below), read her attack on the post-Zionists (their scholarship is still tainted by vestiges of Zionism, which “radically curtails [their] ability to rethink Zionism’s history of racist discourse”). And read her admonition that “the Jewish-American and Jewish Israeli lefts not glorify by contrast [with Sharon] the Labor administration of Rabin and Peres and their Oslo ‘peace process’.” It will be interesting to see if this Beinin-tutored Saidian groupie gets tenure at Duke. She’s put herself in the spotlight this weekend, so listen closely, Duke administrators.
Thu, Oct 14 2004 3:01 pm
Duke agitprof. The Palestine Solidarity Movement will hold its conference at Duke this coming weekend. Only one Duke faculty member will address the event: Rebecca Stein, an assistant professor of cultural anthropology (and a former Stanford student of Joel Beinin’s). At Duke she’s taught a course on “Palestine, Israel and the Arab-Israeli Conflict.” So have a look at this appalling piece of pseudo-scholarship, in which she denounces the “grossly myopic [Israeli] focus on Israeli loss” from suicide bombings, and insists on calling the attacks cases of “Palestinian militarism.” There are footnotes and a thin veneer of theory (public debate takes place in a “polyphonic discursive sphere”), but it’s propaganda. It’s not just that Duke is hosting a weekend conference. It’s that Duke is becoming another Columbia.
Wed, Oct 13 2004 6:29 pm
Basket case. Over at MEMRI’s new television monitoring site, they’re running some examples of execrable commentary on the Sinai terrorist attacks from the Arabic broadcast media. Be sure to see and listen to the amazing commentary by an idiotic twit from the Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, a comparatively reputable outfit, presenting the attacks as an Israeli plot to defame Egypt. There’s no hope for this guy. (If you can’t view the clip, there’s an accompanying transcript.)
Mon, Oct 11 2004 4:01 pm
Arab Mind revisited. When Seymour Hersh published his New Yorker exposé on Abu Ghraib, he quoted anonymous persons who told him the abuses had been inspired by a book published in 1973: The Arab Mind by the late Raphael Patai. That seemed far-fetched to me, and I said so here in the Sandbox. The fact that Patai is too dead to defend himself also irked me. At the time, I was still editor of the Middle East Quarterly, so I sought permission to run Norvelle De Atkine’s foreward to the 2002 reprint edition of The Arab Mind. (De Atkine, a retired U.S. Army colonel with long experience in the Middle East, had written a foreward that paid homage to Patai’s work.) We published De Atkine’s foreward in the summer issue, with a preface by the editors, and it’s now on the web.
Mon, Oct 11 2004 3:06 pm
Muslim Brothers’ keeper. Abu Aardvark has written a considered rejoinder to my Sandstorm posting of Thursday (“He ain’t heavy, he’s my Muslim Brother”), making the counter-argument for engaging “moderate” Islamists in dialogue. Alas, I don’t have the spare few hours I’d need to plunge into a spirited exchange just now (he’s kindly invited me to do so, in his comments section). But when I can find the time, I’ll give you, my own readers, a heads-up.
Mon, Oct 11 2004 1:07 pm
Defining success. Juan Cole argues that Bush has failed in the war on terror. Evidence? “If, three years after 9/11, Zawahiri can arrange for al-Qaeda to blow up yet another building, this time in Egypt, killing scores, that is a sign of failure. If an al-Qaeda-aligned group…is permitted by the Pakistani state…to blow up Shiite mosques, … that is a sign of failure. If radical Sunni groups, or ex-Baathists aligned with them, are able at will to fire Katyusha rockets into the Baghdad Sheraton…, that is a sign of failure.” No, Professor Cole. If Al-Qaeda had managed to repeat a 9/11-style attack in the U.S., even in miniature, that would be a sign of failure. Terrorists, like the poor, will always be with us. The definition of success: keeping them out of house and yard.
Mon, Oct 11 2004 10:14 am
One to watch. My alma mater has just posted this at the Chronicle of Higher Education: “The Department of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University invites applications for a tenure track position in the economies, societies, or cultures of the modern Middle East, to begin September 1, 2005. Rank: Assistant Professor, Ph.D. required.” Deadline: November 8. Details at the main link.
Sun, Oct 10 2004 12:15 pm
Hope in Egypt. The Bibliotheca Alexandrina in Alexandria, Egypt, held a conference on the fate of the ancient library of Alexandria. To the organizers’ credit, they invited Bernard Lewis, who couldn’t attend, but who sent a paper, read in his absence. The correspondent of the Ahram Weekly, Amina Elbendary, tied herself in knots about it. The invite to Lewis was “bewildering,” since Lewis is “controversial, to say the least, and often associated with the negative connotations of Orientalism.” Well, quite obviously the organizers—accomplished Egyptian historians—haven’t been corrupted by post-Orientalist orthodoxy and its blacklisting militancy. There’s hope.
Sat, Oct 9 2004 1:01 am
Hey, Muslim Brother! As promised, I’ve posted my remarks from a panel I shared with Gilles Kepel the week before last. My words weren’t meant as a response to Kepel (he also rejects the idea of “dialogue” with the likes of Sheikh Qaradawi), but as a counter to things said to the Washington Post by various experts (links in posting). Notice that in those WP articles, nobody quotes John Esposito or Fawaz Gerges. Too discredited. But it’s the same (bad) idea, now elicited from persons whose credibility wasn’t tarnished by 9/11.
Thu, Oct 7 2004 12:01 pm
Useful idiots. Gilles Kepel has crossed America promoting his new book, The War for Muslim Minds. He appeared last week at UCLA. Here is an intelligent summary of his remarks, but I link to it primarily because it relays this quotable quote from Kepel: “A number of former communists and fellow travelers of the left have been supportive of the Islamists. They see the Islamists as the embodiment of the masses. The communist cadres used to call these people useful idiots and the term still holds.” (I appeared in Washington with Kepel on the start of his tour. I’ll be posting my own remarks from that occasion very shortly.)
Tue, Oct 5 2004 8:56 pm
Book updates. If you haven’t done so, visit the Book Updates box on the sidebar of the Sandstorm page. The two most useful features are the new releases—one is added each weekday—and, just beneath them, links to the latest reviews and excerpts. I try to add a few entries here each day, and they’ll save you a lot of trawling. Today, for instance, you’ll find a link to an excerpt from The Folly of Empire by John Judis, assessing the (supposedly deleterious) influence of Bernard Lewis and Fouad Ajami on Bush and Cheney. Book Updates is a non-partisan exercise: I link to things I like and don’t like. No endorsements, just pointers.
Tue, Oct 5 2004 11:58 am
Belmont Club. I’m delighted to get a permanent link from Belmont Club, the outstanding, anonymous weblog written by someone who calls himself Wretchard. Belmont Club, devoted largely to Iraq and terrorism, gets 20,000 visitors a day, which puts it way ahead of Juan Cole, Daniel Pipes, or this humble amateur. Some of those thousands are stopping by over here. But since I can’t email Wretchard (his address bounces mail), I’ll make the plea here, just in case he drops in: it’s Kramer with a K, not a C. Many thanks.
Mon, Oct 4 2004 5:21 pm
Cut out middlemen! Lee Smith has an interesting piece at about the disconnect between government’s dire need for Arabic translators and the government’s own programs (e.g. Title VI) meant to encourage language study in universities. Bottom line: Washington’s entire approach has to be revised. The most remarkable quote comes from Rep. Peter Hoekstra, the Michigan Republican who wrote the (stalled) Title VI reform bill, HR 3077: “Maybe we’ll focus more on driving dollars to students rather than academic programs. If we provide incentives to students, colleges will see there’s a market for creating these programs that emphasize language proficiency.” Excellent idea, and a real alternative to throwing money down the hole of what has become Entitlement VI.
Mon, Oct 4 2004 11:01 am
Those French. John J. Miller, national political reporter for National Review, has a new co-authored book, published officially this coming Tuesday: Our Oldest Enemy: A History of America’s Disastrous Relationship with France. According to the book description, the authors “demonstrate that France has never been our friend, has always been our rival, and has often been our enemy.” Three years ago, Miller wrote a National Review article inspired by my book, Ivory Towers on Sand, and it’s still a good read. He’s also set up a website for his book, where you can read an excerpt. He’ll be on O’Reilly on Monday night. Update: O’Reilly cancelled.
Sun, Oct 3 2004 6:13 pm
France gets spanking. The French pretend to be great connoisseurs of the Arab world. You Yanks lack finesse, they say. So read this AFP account of the madcap blundering that has dogged French efforts to spring the French hostages in Iraq. A leading French weekly opines that the affair “could be judged ridiculous if it were not a matter of life and death.” The government is impotent, and shady middlemen are freelancing, raising and dashing hopes. One paper suggests that Syria is causing the latest problems: Damascus wants to punish Chirac, who’s joined the growing international clamor for Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon. My prediction: the hostages eventually will be freed, but only after France has been thoroughly humiliated—the point of the exercise.
Sun, Oct 3 2004 1:01 pm
Said was convinced. In the spring of 2003, the late Edward Said participated in a Cairo roundtable with journalists from Al-Ahram. In the Arab world, Said was regarded as a very great expert on U.S. politics, about which the journalists peppered him with questions. And this is what he told them: “I and many others are convinced that Bush will try to negate the 2004 elections: we’re dealing with a putschist, conspiratorial, paranoid deviation that’s very anti-democratic.” Well, I’m still holding my breath, but if there’s no putsch in the next few weeks, I guess we’ll know who suffered from paranoia. The double tragedy is that Said could say such a thing despite having lived for over fifty years in America, and that clueless people in the Arab world believed him.
Sun, Oct 3 2004 12:59 am
Neo-Nazis too. In my introduction to the edited volume The Jewish Discovery of Islam, I showed how Jewish scholars pioneered an empathetic approach to Islam in nineteenth-century Europe. Now the website of the neo-Nazi National Alliance runs a slick piece based on my intro, claiming that the “subversive, Islamophile Orientalism of Jewish scholars” is the source of the “massive loss of European will that has allowed the growing Muslim invasion once again assailing the continent….If Kramer’s analysis is correct, we can blame Jews.” Edward Said and I are denounced for subverting civilization, and there is this: “Islam has very few virtues, but anti-Semitism is, luckily, among them.” Disinfect screen after reading.
Fri, Oct 1 2004 11:10 pm
Aliens and Araby. John E. Mack, Harvard psychiatry professor and the author of a Pulitzer Prize-winning biography of Lawrence of Arabia, died earlier this week when he was struck by a car in London. Most obituaries mention his belief in alien abductions (Harvard investigated him), but praise the biography. So I recall the devastating commentary on the book by the late Elie Kedourie. He wrote that Mack had “no more than scratched the surface” of the relevant public archives, and he dismissed Mack’s historical judgment as “uncritical and unreliable.” Mack’s life of Lawrence was “innocent of the complexities” of Middle Eastern politics, for which he substituted “modish slogans and shibboleths.” “As I often say,” Mack once told an interviewer, “a Harvard Prof can only make a fool of himself once.” Make that twice.
Fri, Oct 1 2004 2:49 pm