Sandbox: December 2004

Sandbox in recess. Sandbox hasn’t had a break since May, when I went on a long trip. Now I’m about to move again, there’s a backlog of off-line work, and the holidays are coming. So I’ll give it a rest until right after New Year’s. But don’t go away! I’ll continue to post interesting links and pithy comments at Linkage, along with the daily photo (both on the homepage). I’ll also post new releases and links to reviews in the Bookbox (at the Sandstorm page). And of course the news feeds are continuously updated, automatically. Happy holidays.
Sat, Dec 11 2004 12:52 pm
LeVine d’Irvine. Mark LeVine, hip Middle East studies artist at UC Irvine, tells us all about “the field of Middle Eastern studies, most of whose practitioners predicted exactly the terrorism that happened with 9/11 when our Government and spy agencies were busy elsewhere, and who rightly predicted exactly what would happen when the U.S. invaded Iraq.” So man, you know I’m lookin’ for these exact predictions, man, and like I’ve read all this stuff by big professors, and maybe I’m not the brightest bulb, but, shit, I ain’t turnin’ up squat. Just a lot a profs sayin’ terrorism is overblown, and Iraq jacks who thought the war was a swell idea, like that dude Juanito Cole. So like maybe LeVine d’Irvine could come up with some… what’s it called, man? Yeah, that’s it, e-vi-dence! Peace, man.
Fri, Dec 10 2004 3:30 pm
Massadism. Joseph Massad persists in his bizarre campaign to redefine Zionism as anti-Semitism against Palestinians and Arabs, in yet another tormented screed in the Ahram Weekly. (Arabs and Muslims are “being murdered by the tens of thousands by Euro-American Christian anti-Semitism and by Israeli Jewish anti-Semitism.”) To suggest how far-out Massad’s thesis is, here’s a link to a page that includes twenty-three definitions of anti-Semitism from current dictionaries and encyclopedias. (The website happens to be pro-Palestinian, too.) Not one of them defines anti-Semitism as anything but hatred of and prejudice against Jews, and some explicitly note that it doesn’t refer to racism against other putative “Semites” (Arabs, Ethiopians). Massad believes that any word can suddenly become any thing, if he wills it. If Columbia has any sense at all, he’ll eventually have to struggle with the meaning of this word: unemployed.
Fri, Dec 10 2004 12:17 pm
Word-eating time. Remember U.S. Marine Corporal Wassef Ali Hassoun, who was “kidnapped” in Iraq and turned up safe and sound in his native Lebanon? At the time, Juan Cole 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.” So he “escaped,” and he’s been investigated for five months, and he’s just been charged with desertion, and he’ll be telling his “exploits” to a military court. How about it, Professor “Informed Comment” Cole? An apology to Arab-Americans?
Thu, Dec 9 2004 10:37 pm
Qorvis searched. The FBI yesterday searched three of the offices of Qorvis, the Saudi-employed public relations firm. Qorvis said the company understood that the government is conducting a “compliance inquiry” under the Foreign Agents Registration Act. Readers of Sandbox (“Riyality Check,” August 10 and 14) will recall that Qorvis had been pushing free speakers (including academics) to universities. (Daniel Pipes first ran the story.) Today’s Washington Post piece on the office searches quotes a Justice Department report, to the effect that the Saudi embassy paid Qorvis $14.6 million for lobbying and PR in the second half of 2002. That’s a chunk of change, double that if you annualize it, and you wonder where the campuses fit in the overall Qorvis strategy. Of course, since there’s no transparency in academe, we’ll never know unless someone emulates Charles Lipson (U. of Chicago), and blows the whistle. Or unless the FBI tells us.
Thu, Dec 9 2004 11:27 am
They’re History. The Daily Princetonian article on Near Eastern Studies (NES) at Princeton (right below) has anonymous history profs dissing Michael Doran. (Doran, an assistant professor in NES, is widely known for his trenchant commentaries on Saudi Arabia and Al-Qaeda in Foreign Affairs and The Wall Street Journal.) Digest this: “Several history professors said they consider a decision to tenure or not to tenure [Doran] a litmus test for future cooperation between Princeton NES and the history department. If Doran is tenured, two history professors said relations between the departments could be severely damaged. ‘We don’t want him,’ one senior history professor said.” So senior faculty are anonymously commenting on tenure preferences to the student newspaper. You can’t sink lower. Doran’s reply: “I’m willing to debate any of these people about any of my major ideas in public at any place of their choosing.” Come on, cowardly Clios. Show yourselves. Update: Abu Aardvark agrees with me on this one, and then poses an interesting question.
Thu, Dec 9 2004 12:09 am
Last of the virtuous. What can one say about the calumnies against Princeton’s Near Eastern Studies department retailed in today’s Daily Princetonian? Here’s a solitary department in the vast wasteland of academic conformity and the morass of Middle Eastern studies, trying to do things in its own meticulous way, and sufficiently diverse to host a few scholars who won’t induge in post-colonial idolatry. They’re also not hostile to the (ostensible) motto of the university: “Princeton in the Nation’s Service.” If you want the kind of foul gruel served up by Rashid Khalidi (Said Professor at Columbia), Ussama Makdisi (Said’s nephew at Rice), Khalid Fahmy (who left Princeton without tenure for NYU), and Joel Beinin (Stanford’s stain)—all quoted in the article—just don’t attend Princeton. You can worship at the altar of St. Edward almost anywhere.
Wed, Dec 8 2004 1:17 pm
I used to attend. Back in 2001, journalist Franklin Foer attended the annual conference of the Middle East Studies Association (MESA) in San Francisco. “There was one universally acknowledged villain at the conference,” he wrote in The New Republic. Martin Kramer was “the man everyone loved to hate,” and when one speaker in a plenary session mentioned my name, “some in the audience actually hissed.” (I wasn’t actually there.) MESA met in San Francisco again a couple of weeks ago, and Lee Kaplan has published a first-hand account. When he asked a participant why Daniel Pipes and I weren’t on the program, for diversity’s sake, he got this answer: “They’d be shouted down.” That has the ring of truth.
Tue, Dec 7 2004 12:23 pm
Ah, Orientalist training. Asad AbuKhalil (“The Angry Arab”) responds to seeing French scholar Gilles Kepel interviewed in Arabic on a Lebanese TV station: “All European scholars of the Middle East really study the language of the country that they study. Not here…. I can name only a handful of American scholars (colleagues of mine) who can talk in Arabic on TV…. I wish we could go back to Orientalist training (without adhering to classical Orientalist dogmas and methods, of course).” In Ivory Towers on Sand, I urged Middle Eastern studies to reconnect to “the very rich patrimony of scholarly orientalism. For all the limitations of this tradition, it inculcated high standards of cultural literacy and technical proficiency.” But in American academe, mastery of social science theory is much more likely to get you a job than proficient Arabic. The hijacking of Title VI by “area studies” promoters has institutionalized the language deficit. Gee, I agree with “The Angry Arab.” What are we coming to?
Mon, Dec 6 2004 11:41 am
Benno Gitter. I note the passing of Benno Gitter, who for many years chaired the board of Tel Aviv University. Benno was a wise and generous philanthropist, with a compelling story. He was born in 1919 in Amsterdam, and lived through two terrifying years of the Nazi occupation of Holland before finding refuge in Portugal and then Argentina. In 1954 he moved to Israel, where he became a banker and entrepreneur. Benno told his own story in his memoirs. (On the cover, he posed with his cigar—as always.) He was totally devoted to the university, and I won’t forget kind things he said to me after my various performances before the university’s board. He will be buried in Tel Aviv tomorrow, and he will be missed.
Mon, Dec 6 2004 11:05 am
Word appropriation. As Sandbox readers will recall, the pseudo-intellectual project of Columbia’s Joseph Massad is the resemanticizing of anti-Semitism, so that it’s understood to include prejudice against Arabs and Palestinians—even (and especially) when it’s practiced by Israel. Thus, Israel becomes not just racist but anti-Semitic; Massad affirms “the anti-Semitic nature of Israel.” (Twenty-five years ago, Edward Said resemanticized orientalism to mean anti-Arab/Muslim racism, but why stop there? Anti-Semitism carries more punch.) All this may be chic and pathbreaking at Columbia, but it’s being done all the time in the Arab media. Read this article entitled “Israel’s anti-Semitism” by Al-Ahram editor Ibrahim Nafie, and this fresh account of how the idea is spreading among Arab (so-called) “intellectuals.” (Aside: a top authority on anti-Semitism, seated on the right in this photo, would seem to contradict the thesis.)
Fri, Dec 3 2004 3:12 pm
The Compleat Cole. The Forward, a national Jewish newspaper, runs a short piece on the Cole-MEMRI affair. It offers this context: “Unlike other pro-Palestinian professors who have come under criticism, Cole has not publicly questioned Israel’s right to exist, nor has he condoned terrorism. He opposed the boycott of Israeli academics.” This is true but incomplete. Cole rejected an academic boycott, but in the same breath added this: “I could support the divestment campaign at some American campuses, aimed at university investments in Israeli firms, because the business elite in Israel is both more powerful and more entangled in government policy than the academics.” When Harvard president Lawrence Summers described divestment campaigns as “anti-Semitic in their effect, if not their intent,” Cole denounced the statement as “extremely dangerous and troubling… with dire implications for civil liberties.” Just for the record.
Thu, Dec 2 2004 5:46 pm
Case for Israel. Here is Stanford’s Joel Beinin, on why Israel deserves (grudging) recognition: “In my view, the state of Israel has already lost any moral justification for its existence. It not only oppresses the Palestinian people, but its claims to represent all Jews throughout the world endanger even Jews who totally reject Zionism or are severe critics of Israeli policies. But states are not recognized because they have moral rights. What after all is the moral right of the United States to exist, based as it is on the ethnic cleansing of the indigenous peoples of North America and hundreds of years of slavery and structural racial discrimination?” Alan Dershowitz, move over: your case for Israel has competition.
Thu, Dec 2 2004 4:55 pm