These last few weeks, Professor Juan Cole, blogger extraordinaire, has been even more over-the-top than usual, and I’ve been busy calling him on errors and elisions. The other day, he responded at his weblog with this appeal to his admirers at a left-of-center online forum called Daily Kos:
Please do up an oppo research diary on Martin Kramer. Who is he? Where did he come from? When he was head of the Dayan Center in Tel Aviv, to whom did he report in the Israeli intelligence community? Who funded his work on Hizbullah? Was he fired from heading the Dayan Center? How does he suddenly show back up in the US after a 20-year absence with a book that blames unpreparedness for 9/11 on US professors of Middle East Studies instead of on the Israeli Mossad and the US CIA/FBI? What was his role in getting up the Iraq War and in advising the US on the wrong-headed policies that have gotten so many Americans killed? Who pays his salary, now, exactly? What are his links with AIPAC, and with the shadowy world of far-right Zionist think tanks and dummy organizations?
I’ve restricted my critique of Cole to his on-the-record writings and statements, where there’s ample grist. I’ve never puttered around his personal background, his job, his salary, his travels, or his grants. From what I hear, there’s ample grist for that too, and some of it is relevant, but I haven’t gone there. Since he’s decided to insinuate that I’m some sort of Mossad operative, I’m assuming he has no substantive arguments to make in his defense. And he has the temerity to call his critics “sleazeballs” and accuse them of McCarthyism.
Cole’s would-be sleuths didn’t turn up much information, and some actually refused the assignment. But I’ve secured the following Cole-ordered oppo research about me (I can’t reveal my methods), and it appears to be very well-informed. In fact, the author almost seems to have a direct line into my mind…
Oppo Research for Professor Juan Cole
Question: “Who is he? Where did he come from?” Answer: Kramer was born in Washington, D.C. (ah-ha!), in 1954, and grew up in Maryland. He began his Middle Eastern studies under Itamar Rabinovich at Tel Aviv University, and continued under Fouad Ajami, L. Carl Brown, the late Charles Issawi, and Bernard Lewis, all at Princeton. (Lewis directed his doctoral thesis.) He also did a year at Columbia with J.C. Hurewitz. These “scholars” have all been exposed, by a previous oppo researcher, either as orientalists or native informants; they apparently recruited the young and impressionable Kramer to their service. As Kramer’s doctorate neared completion, Rabinovich persuaded him to join the faculty of Tel Aviv University, and he has been there ever since. He has a fair number of scholarly publications, which have propelled him through the ranks. All this academic labor just to build his cover…
Question: “When he was head of the Dayan Center in Tel Aviv, to whom did he report in the Israeli intelligence community?” Answer: The Dayan Center, we have discovered, is part of Tel Aviv University, and it seems to house a well-known group of scholars. Its director reports to a board of governors, which includes prominent public figures and academics (ex officio: the university president, the provost, and the dean of the faculty of humanities). We cannot substantiate the suggestion that its director reports to “Israeli intelligence,” although we know that all academics in Israel are agents unless proven otherwise. Still, Kramer seems particularly chagrined by what he regards as a disgraceful smear of his institution and his colleagues.
Question: “Was he fired from heading the Dayan Center?” Answer: No, he served two consecutive three-year terms, the term limit according to university regulations. (We are not sure why Professor Cole has tasked us with this question, and perhaps we should not raise it, given his own rather attenuated stint as director of Michigan’s Middle East center…)
Question: “Who funded his work on Hizbullah?” Answer: Kramer had a two-year grant from the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation, and a one-year fellowship from the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington. The Wilson Center is part of the Smithsonian Institution, so Kramer’s work was funded, at least in part, by the U.S. government! (Inadvertently, however, we discovered that Professor Cole’s own work on Shiism was funded by… federal tax dollars. We will keep this information confidential.)
Question: “Who pays his salary, now, exactly?” Answer: Kramer is a full-time tenured academic at Tel Aviv University. They have paid him a monthly salary for twenty-four years. We have secured one of his pay slips, and they seem to figure it out pretty exactly. Especially the deductions…
Question: “How does he suddenly show back up in the US after a 20-year absence with a book that blames unpreparedness for 9/11 on US professors of Middle East Studies instead of on the Israeli Mossad and the US CIA/FBI?” Answer: According to our evidence, Kramer wasn’t absent for twenty years. In the 1980s and 1990s, he came back half a dozen times on visiting professorships and fellowships. Counter-intelligence even spotted him lurking in the corridors at conferences of the Middle East Studies Association (MESA). That apparently kept him current with the goings-on in Middle Eastern studies, and seems to have provided inspiration and fodder for his book. We have checked, and were surprised to find that Professor Cole isn’t mentioned in that book. This omission can be used against Kramer: he failed to predict the rise of Juan Cole! In his defense, Kramer will probably say: it was so implausible.
Question: “What was his role in getting up the Iraq War and in advising the US on the wrong-headed policies that have gotten so many Americans killed?” Answer: Kramer hasn’t had any advisory role beyond his website, nor has he repackaged himself as an instant Iraq expert. None of Kramer’s statements uncovered so far competes with our own Professor Cole’s characterization of the war as a “noble enterprise.” (We still await further clarification from Professor Cole, as to whether we were for the war and are now against it, or were against the war and are now for it.)
Question: “What are his links with AIPAC, and with the shadowy world of far-right Zionist think tanks and dummy organizations?” Answer: Kramer once addressed a panel at the annual AIPAC conference in Washington. Last year he spoke at AIPAC’s annual “summit” at the new Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Florida. Kramer does not seem to have been followed by the FBI, although some agents may have been operating undercover.
As for his links with the “shadowy world of far-right Zionist think tanks,” Kramer is quite secretive. We have ascertained that he spends three months each year at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, as the Wexler-Fromer Fellow. (The Wexlers and Fromers are two couples out of New York who have admired Kramer’s work.) He is a senior editor at the Middle East Quarterly, which he edited for three years. (We all know whose journal that is.) And he has a connection to the (Haim!) Saban Center (Brookings Institution), which brings him each year to the U.S.-Islamic forum in Qatar. It has not been difficult to retrieve this information from the “shadowy world,” since the relevant think tanks busily compete to get into the limelight.
Urgent query for Professor Cole! We prepared this report for you in response to your weblog entry of July 11. But when we checked back the next day to see whether we had answered all questions, we saw that the paragraph tasking us with oppo research on Kramer had disappeared! We are perplexed. Did the Likudniks and Neocons penetrate your system and remove your instructions? A distinct possibility. Did you have one of your late-night “slips of the keyboard,” and inadvertently delete them? That happens often. Or perhaps you deliberately programmed your instructions to self-destruct? We don’t pretend to fathom the depth of your reasoning (no one can), so we would appreciate some guidance from on high. Do you desire this report, or should we destroy it? It would be most embarrassing were it to fall into the hands of Kramer himself…