Noah Feldman is the young NYU law professor who was tapped by the Coalition Provisional Authority back in 2003 to help Iraqis write their constitution. He later fell out with the CPA and returned to New York in a huff. Feldman has recently lamented that he’s infamous in the Arab world, because Edward Said wrote an article noting he was raised as an Orthodox Jew. “The article morphed and spread [in Arabic translation], until I became known as a Zionist agent. I became nervous, and I believe it would be dangerous for me to go back.”
The irony is that Feldman set himself up. It was he who, in spring 2003, pumped the New York Times and the Israeli press with the self-promotional saga of his Orthodox background. This is what I wrote in those glory days, before there was any Iraqi resistance or beheading of foreigners: “I question the wisdom of all the to-do about Feldman’s Jewish upbringing. In America, it’s part of the novelty—so much so that Feldman seems to think that there’s no reason not to dwell on it…. [But] there are undoubtedly people in Iraq who would be delighted to bag an American Jew. I urge Feldman to watch his back.” Feldman didn’t understand enough about the temperament of the region to know that he was making a mistake, and Said made sure it caught up with him. Feldman once told an interviewer that being in Baghdad was “invigorating—there is nothing like putting your money where your mouth is.” Well, up to a point. And since Professor Feldman has written an entire book enumerating the mistakes of his lessers in Iraq, he might acknowledge just one of his own.