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Right-Wing Princeton Jewish Alumni on Warpath over Possible Khalidi Appointment

Inside Higher Ed reports (much of this post derives from that site) that right-wing Jewish alumni are up in arms at Princeton over news that the Near East Studies Program may hire noted Middle East scholar, Rashid Khalidi.  It even appears that the campus director of the Center for Jewish Life endorses or at least sympathizes with the opposition (see quotation following).

Khalidi_1

Rashid Khalidi: Princeton
under fire for considering
him
(credit: Lafabrique.fr)

The Near East Studies Program is known for its faculty exhibiting a "tilt" in favor of U.S. and Israeli approaches to the conflict.  Bernard Lewis, a retired Program member, perfectly mirrors this approach.  That being the case, it makes perfect sense that conservative alumni would feel uncomfortable with the notion that Khalidi might upset the balance by introducing a scholarly approach more understanding, if not sympathetic to a Palestinian perspective on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Lost in the morass of controversy is the fact that Khalidi is one of the most outstanding Middle East scholars in academia today.  Anyone who hears his eloquent and persuasive comments on his Charlie Rose Show appearances would probably agree with me.  Scott Jaschik’s Inside Higher Ed post carries Juan Cole’s appreciation of Khalidi:

Cole, a Middle East expert at the University of Michigan, said in
an e-mail interview this weekend that Khalidi was “a giant in the study
of the modern Middle East” who has “used archival sources and the best
of critical theory to rethink the history of Arab and Palestinian
nationalism.”

So what exactly are his opponents afraid of?

…Pro-Israel groups have denounced his work for several years, arguing that his Palestinian sympathies distort his scholarship.

…Arlene Pedovitch, interim director of the Center for Jewish Life at
Princeton, [is quoted in the Daily Princetonian] as saying “Some Princeton alumni are very concerned about
the possibility of Princeton University hiring an individual who has a
political agenda rather than a scholarly approach to history.”

Isn’t it interesting that when an academic holds scholarly views divergent from your own then those views constitute "a political agenda?"  But a pro-Israel academic would of course have a purely scholarly agenda devoid of any political slant, right?  Hmmm.

Pedovitch also raises the red herring of Princeton’s anti-Semitic, quota days in relation to a Khalidi appointment:

"Many alumni and students are concerned that
a potential appointment of Professor Khalidi will be used as an excuse
to describe Princeton as anti-Semitic again."

Excuse me, but the fact that Princeton was a bastion of genteel anti-Semitism in the past is incontrovertible (as were almost all other Ivy League campuses).  But what does that have to do with Khalidi?  Are you saying he’s an anti-Semite?  If so, I double dare you to prove it because you can’t.  I think what these people are really saying is they don’t want to be faced with any faculty member who might challenge their preconceived notions about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  Welcome to the bizarro world of narrow minded provincialism.  Are these the values that Princeton wants to espouse?

Another ‘tolerant’ undergrad raised the specter of Khalidi on campus hindering recruitment and enrollment of Jews:

"It’s going to be a problem come admissions" if Khalidi is chosen.

So let me get this straight, no Jews will want to attend Princeton because it’s hired one of the world’s most eminent Middle East scholars?  Hmmm.  I’d say that any Jew that uses this as a criteria to reject Princeton should be rejected themselves as a candidate.  Whatever happened to tolerance and open-mindedness in the world of academia?

Based on comments from a Princeton administrator quoted in the Inside Higher Ed post I believe that the college will not cave to such pressure and will pursue the issue of Khalidi’s possible appointment with due and fair deliberation (unlike Steve Ballmer’s cowardly approach to evangelical pressure against Microsoft).

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{ 10 comments… add one }

  • Mike April 26, 2005, 8:04 PM

    Once again, because I know you’re a man of meritocracy and free speech above all I know you have surely also been flabergasted at the treatment of Mr. Doran at Princeton U previously?
    http://www.princeton.edu/~nes/profiles/faculty.html
    He was denied tenure and a permanent position ‘it would appear’ due to being slightly right of center with an outlook on the Near East more similar to Bernard Lewis than Edward Said? It would seem that the other History Dept professor are not fond of his articles supportive of the Iraqi War? I mean how could someone be denied tenure due to his having a different opinion than other faculty members????????????? ISN’T THIS A SHANDRA??
    His writings are praised, his credentials outstanding, he’s been teaching there for quite a while and his students highly praise his teaching style and technique……………. yet he was denied tenure on the faulty grounds of ‘being offered a position at Brandeis’ which he told Princeton he was absolutely not interested in?

    I mean in comparison at Columbia the entire MELAC department is far left wing/Arabist/Saidian in orientation, yet somehow the problem is the “silencing” of these Professors at Columbia and not the protection of the minority at Princeton or seeking to gain Professors at Columbia that don’t mesh with the Monopolize Clique there?

    Yet, now Princeton jumps at grabbing another Saidian Professor and offering him the Chairmanship?

    Hmmmmmmmmmmmm you know Richard, something just seems off here? But perhaps you could clear it up for me and explain what I’m missing?

  • Richard Silverstein April 26, 2005, 11:10 PM

    It looks like my site now has a troll, albeit a woefully misinformed and barely literate one.

    The only thing I have to say to Mike is READ THE NEWSPAPER before you spout ridiculous and inaccurate statements. Doran has NOT been denied tenure. Don’t believe me, go to the Daily Princetonian website and see for yourself (I won’t do your homework for you by providing the link–hopefully even though you can’t spell too well or string together a sentence, you should be able to find an article in an online newspaper). Doran is up for tenure at Princeton and the faculty is currently deliberating on his academic status. Everything I’ve read indicates he’s likely to get tenure.

    It’s not “Shandra,” fella. It’s “shande.” Where did you learn your Yiddish??

  • Mike April 28, 2005, 1:13 PM

    You know Richard calling someone a “troll” is not very Tikun Olam of you? Don’t ruin your ‘warm open-minded’ rep on my account.

    First, I read the link enclosed and I realized he ‘wasn’t officially denied tenure’… what they did do was defer conferring on it last year due to faulty (bogus) reasons and Professors were cited in the National Review article stating they would work against him due to his positions on the Iraq War. This makes one suspicious and cautious at the least. However, Princeton, which is fairly balanced at least is not the main issue here. Its a minor lesser example of the overall issue at college campuses in general.

    Its telling that you turn a ‘scant eye’ on the students at Columbia while not turning one at Massad/Khalidi/Columbia nor the Doran situation.

    I’ve personally spoken to these students and prior ones at Columbia. In the spirit of Tikun Olam have you ‘fella’? Most privately but not publically said to one degree or another that via the Professors and students there is an atmosphere very hostile to anything Israeli and its very palpable. Does that bother you my Tikun Olam friend? Or defending a bully like Joseph Massad is more your fancy?

    Most have said the department is highly politicized, way past the point of reasonable prudence or fostering a comfortable questioning learning environment – Massad was certainly the worst example of injecting flat out politicized bias and being a classroom bully latently and at times blatantly. Needless to say most felt uncomfortable in his class.

    Most kids just blow it off and get their degree and go ont their way. Very few stood up and tried to question anything, but finally some did. However, because the David Project assisted them, imagine?, they are treated with cynicism? I wonder in that vein, if you’ve posted any opinions (I haven’t “trolled around enough”) on the tactics of CAIR?

    So amazingly enough, cynicism is directed towards the students, emeshed in an atmosphere hostile to them, and not the monopolized clique of Professors? That’s a nice role reversal of victimization there. And here I thought Professors are supposed to foster an atmosphere of debate and safety let alone for 20 year old kids.

    However, I don’t see a thing at your site at that token, defending or saying a boo about the Kloceck immediate firing at Depaul?

    Oh, and thanks, fella, for the Yiddish spelling correction. :=-)

  • Mike April 28, 2005, 1:14 PM

    Oh, and one more thing? How do you know its “right wing” alumni?
    You know I’d be willing to bet most of those alumni voted for Gore and Kerry?
    Do you mean its that these people are likely not big fans of Said, Chomsky or Fisk?
    Is that what makes one a “right winger” in your purview?

  • Richard Silverstein April 28, 2005, 5:26 PM

    This site is not a forum for you to rehash the MEALAC debate as the New York Sun, Columbia Unbecoming and the David Project have done ad nauseum. This post is about Rashid Khalidi’s possible appointment at Princeton, not about MEALAC.

    The only comment I have to make about your entirely spurious charges is that you’re not a student at Columbia, have never taken a MEALAC course before, have never met or spoken with any of the professors involved, and have no direct first-hand knowledge of anything related to this issue. You present 2nd or 3rd hand opinions that have no validity whatsoever. And this of course is typical of the bullying tactics used by the MEALAC haters out there like you. A comparison between the tactics of the haters & Joe McCarthy is perfectly apt.

    Your comments on this post are now officially over. Ignore my request and you’ll no longer be welcome to comment anywhere at this site.

  • Andrew Schamess April 29, 2005, 1:34 PM

    I’d hate to call Mike disingenuous – so it must be he doesn’t have all the facts on the Columbia flap. Here they are.

    According to a January story in New York Magazine, it was The David Project – a pro-Israel advocacy group with ties to Daniel Pipes Mideast Forum – that went out in search of students willing to complain about anti-Semitism among Arab professors. After being turned down by undergrads at many Northeast campuses, they found a few Campus Watch members at Columbia who agreed to go along.

    Unfortunately, almost none of them had actually taken classes in MEALAC. In fact, as soon as the “Columbia Unbecoming” film was released, a number of Jewish MEALAC students told Jewish Week that the charges of intimidation and anti-Semitism were nonsense. More detailed student testimony is here.

    Many of these students tried to approach the filmmakers while the documentary was in progress and were turned away. There was little pretense, in the making of the film, that The David Project was engaging in objective research. It was an anti-MEALAC propaganda piece from the beginning. If you look at the film, it’s just what you’d expect: poorly documented, hyperbolic and inflammatory.

    A Columbia panel, after hearing extensive testimony from students on both sides of the issue, cleared Massad and other professors of charges of intimidating students and of anti-Semitism.

    It is quite true that the Columbia Arab studies department is left-leaning and critical of Israel. It is also true that Columbia has a large, well-funded Jewish Studies department that offers a curriculum much more supportive of Israel.

    Do MEALAC professors stifle debate and create an atmosphere hostile to students? Here’s Columbia student Elisheva Cohen:

    I, as a Jew who is fairly supportive (though critical) of Israel, have had nothing but positive experiences in the MEALAC department… To be honest, in all the MEALAC classes I have taken, Professor Massad, more than any other professor.. is open to hearing the other side, answering questions, and entertaining criticism. In my experience, he does it readily because, as a teacher, it is his job to make students think.

    If Mike is looking for bullying and anti-Semitism, he might check out the reports in Jewish Week and the Forward about a conference sponsored by The David Project itself, to discuss “Academic Intergrity on the American Campus”. Students who disagreed with the rabid anti-Arab rhetoric spewing from the podium were shouted down, and reporters were overtly threatened. Charles Jacobs, the ED for the David Project, referred to Jews who disagreed with him as Marranos ["pigs" in Spanish]- a particularly nasty and violent anti-Semitic slur.

    Give me Joseph Massad any day.

    I’m afraid you’re not even in the ballpark, Mike. Richard’s doing great reportage on Khalidi. Thank G-d there are a few voices of reason among us.

    The sad thing is that Khalidi is considering leaving Columbia. It looks like the David Project’s intimidation tactics – regardless of how unfounded – had an impact.

  • Maloof March 25, 2007, 8:04 PM

    What’s good for the goose is not good for the gander. It’s very disturbing that Khalidi is being accused of being politically motivated by a group who IS just that! Brandeis tried to play the same game in keeping Carter from speaking but the students raised their voices. It will be interesting to see if the Princeton student body does the same.

  • Richard Silverstein March 25, 2007, 10:27 PM

    Khalidi never went to Princeton. I haven’t heard why but I’d like to find out if anyone knows.

  • Etan November 2, 2008, 2:17 PM

    While I think the brouhaha over Khalidi is a bunch of nonsense – I wanted to respond to the poster who quotes Juan Cole. It infuriates me that Juan Cole offers his commentary on Israel when his ramblings prove that he has no clue what he is talking about. In that same post he calls the Washington Institute for Near East Policy a “far right” organization “driven by a desire for Greater Israel.” I think one of the top people at WINEP and one of Obama’s most trusted mideast advisor, Dennis Ross, might disagree with him. Especially as Ross worked tirelessly at Camp David to bring about a peace agreement that would have included dividing Jerusalem.

    In my opinion it is slanderous to say that because you may support Israel and also support the war in Iraq that you are a supporter of ethnic cleansing of Palestinians and your reason for supporting a war is to “ensure that youre DREAM of ethnic cleansing is unopposed.” About as slanderous and infuriating to suggest that Khalidi is a terrorist.

    Cole would have a hard time clarifying his hyperbole as well – because the only way to link war in Iraq or Iran to ensuring a “dream of ethnic cleansing” is unopposed is to insinuate that either Iraq or Iran SHOULD stop Israel’s “ethnic cleansing” (and I wonder what methods they would have for that).

  • Richard Silverstein November 2, 2008, 9:06 PM

    @Etan: Dennis Ross is not God’s gift to Mideast peace. He IS a favorite of Aipac and WINEP is essentially an Aipac think tank. I think Juan’s criticism of Israel and pro Israel groups has a bit harder edge to it sometimes than I would like. But to dismiss his criticism of WINEP & Ross merely because he chose an adjective that was slightly too categorical is making a big mistake. There’s a lot TO criticize there.

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