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Pro-Israel Campaign to Deny Nadia Abu El-Haj Tenure

The Jewish right-wing is on the warpath again against an imagined academic foe of Israel. Groups like Daniel Pipes’ Campus Watch and David Horowitz’s Frontpagemagazine have turned their life’s work into making the lives of such academics a living hell. They and their allies have gone on the warpath against Princeton when it offered an endowed chair to Rashid Khalidi, Yale when it did the same to Juan Cole, Khalil Shikaki and Natana DeLong-Bas at Brandeis, and most recently Norman Finkelstein, done in by a full court press orchestrated by Alan Dershowitz. They also generally harass other academics like Stanford’s Joel Beinin on principle though they cannot wound him through a tenure battle since he already has it.

These people are like ultra-Zionist sharks in the ocean. They sniff for the “blood” of alleged anti-Zionist academics and then circle for the kill. And like sharks, their brains are not bothered by complicated weighing of facts, evidence and arguments. Once they find a victim, rhetoric, like blood, enflames and logic goes out the window.

Let’s take the case of Prof. Nadia Abu El-Haj. Her book, Facts on the Ground, was published by the University of Chicago Press in 2001. It examines Israeli archeology as an extension of the nation-building process claiming that seminal figures like venerable Yigal Yadin consciously or unconsciously skewed their work to buttress the narrative of the new Israeli state. Opinion is divided on the merits of El-Haj’s work. I have read scathing reviews and I have read glowing ones. I’m not an archaeologist and don’t pretend to judge the merits of her scholarly approach. Nor do I even claim to agree necessarily with her views.

But I know a rat when I smell one and there’s a few huge ones skulking around El-Haj as she proceeds through the tenure process at Barnard College, which has approved it. Final approval rests with Columbia University, Barnard’s academic parent. It seems hard to believe that Columbia’s president would overrule Barnard. But given the shellacking that Columbia went through over Joseph Massad and its Middle East studies program which was savaged by the David Project, anything could happen to El-Haj. Remember that Norman Finkelstein had been approved by two campus committees before he was denied.

Paula Stern has organized a petition against El-Haj. From her profile at IsraelInsider, she appears to be a hard-right pro-Israel nationalist. You have to wonder whether despite Campus Watch’s protestations to the contrary, she hasn’t closely coordinated this campaign with that group and Frontpagemagazine (which slammed El-Haj here).

Let’s examine a few of Stern’s arguments in her petition (and one wonders whether these ARE Stern’s arguments since she is no archaeologist–which would imply that she had help from other right-wing pro-Israel academics). One of the most glaring habits in this petition is to quote selectively phrases from El-Haj and then paraphrase her alleged argument without quoting her. In many cases, the paraphrase is highly charged. But since it is not a quotation we don’t know if this is what El-Haj actually writes or merely what her enemies want us to believe she writes. Take this for example:

Abu El Haj alleges that archaeologists have “created the fact of an ancient Israelite/Jewish nation,” where none actually existed.

Does El-Haj actually believe that no Israelite nation existed? Maybe. But this is far too important an issue for me to rely on the petition’s paraphrase of El-Haj’s view.

In other cases, they quote such a small portion of El-Haj’s writing that you cannot tell whether she is being quoted in context or not. Take this as an example:

She asserts that the ancient Israelite kingdoms are a “pure political fabrication.”

Why wouldn’t it have been possible to quote an entire sentence or paragraph to determine what El-Haj actually wrote and believes on this subject.

Another matter which the petition ignores is that Israeli archaeologists themselves are plowing similar ground to El-Haj. Their conclusion might not be as sweeping as hers, but this certainly shows that El-Haj and her views are squarely within a legitimate academic debate. Ynetnews profiles a new book written by Neil Asher Silberman and Israel Finkelstein, who also take on the Israeli archaeological establishment and its sacred cow notion of a glorious united Davidic kingdom:

…Archeology shows that Jerusalem, which in Solomon’s day was supposed to be the ‘glorious empire,’ was a lowly village in that period, relatively small and remote, and not the city of splendor described in the Bible.”

In their book, Finkelstein and Silberman claim that the kingdoms of David and Solomon did not exist as they were described in the Bible. The story was written, in fact, in Judea in order to justify its rule over large numbers of refugees who came there after the destruction of the Temple.

…”In the entire Bible the Judean writers try to say that Judea is the center and Israel is not legitimate. After all, its kings were all outcasts, they don’t have a good word to say about any of them, but the people are OK, on condition that they take it upon themselves to worship God in Jerusalem under the dynasty of the House of David.”

Here, they refute the notion of Davidic conquest:

“There’s no reason to doubt the fact that there was a David who founded a dynasty in Jerusalem, but in my opinion the united kingdom in the form described in the Bible did not exist. The whole thing of David’s conquests never happened. In traditional archeology, anywhere a layer of destruction from the tenth century BCE was seen, they immediately shouted, ‘David!’ but there is no real basis for this.

And finally, here the archaeologists seem to be criticizing both Israeli nationalism and Israeli fetishizing of the Temple Mount and similar historical monuments to Israeli nationhood and Jewish religion:

“Something interesting has happened here: We, the Jews, who were identified as the People of the Book, have suddenly become a people like all others and we’ve begun to pursue land and monuments. In the past this never interested us.

So if we understand El-Haj’s critique within a tradition like that represented by Silberman and Finkelstein she may strike us as radical compared to them. But she is clearly within a debunking tradition that they represent as well. And as any academic will tell you, all traditions were made to be debunked. If we don’t test hypotheses and challenge underlying assumptions how can we be sure that they are sound? The type of criticism practiced by the archaeologists I’ve cited here is fully within the legitimate scope of academic discourse.

The petition contains further charges against El-Haj’s scholarly method:

In addition to all of this, hundreds of written documents ranging from receipts, to letters, to school exercises survive because they were written on pieces of old pottery (ostraca.) Abu El Haj fails to mention the existence of this truly vast body of written evidence that proves her assertion to be false.

Brendan McKay of the Australian National University writes in a private e-mail to me:

A few quick searches [of the book] shows that in fact these inscriptions are mentioned repeatedly throughout the book. The biggest lie here is [when] the petition…claims that these inscriptions support the Biblical pre-exilic story when in fact the intersection between story and evidence is extremely slight and controversial. Even the meaning of the “House of David” inscription is hotly disputed amongst the experts.

Another charge is also false:

Abu El Haj does not speak or read Hebrew, the language Israelis speak and the language in which Israeli archaeologists regularly publish.

Ted Swedenburg, professor of anthropology at the University of Arkansas disputes this claim:

…Among the other scurrilous claims is that Nadia doesn’t speak hebrew. I was in Palestine for a couple months when she was doing fieldwork and made a trip into Tel Aviv with some other friends. sat at a restaurant with her and an Israeli friend, who when hearing her speak Hebrew, said Nadia was quite good.

The book’s bibliography clearly references Hebrew sources so the charge that she doesn’t read Hebrew is also false. I have read in a negative review that her knowledge of Hebrew is “desultory,” though I don’t know on what basis the judgment is made.

But leaving all this aside, in this day and age I’d imagine that most Israeli archaeologists would be using English as their lingua franca and that the most important research would either be published in English-language periodicals or available in English translation from Hebrew. Again, I’m not an expert in the field and don’t know whether this is the case. But it stands to reason that it is likely.

The petition also raises another spurious charge against El-Haj:

Abu El Haj…demonstrate[es]… her ignorance of history and of archeology…[when] she writes of the post-1967 dig in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City, “ In this (anonymous) Israeli archaeologist’s words, ‘It was one of the largest excavations and one of the worst’; it was too large to ‘digest scientifically.’ It was too large to control: ‘Somewhere in there are the complexes of the Palaces of Solomon,’ he insisted, ‘but they dug buildings with no sections and lost a lot of data that way.’

Of course, if the “Palaces of Solomon” exist,they would be in the area of Jerusalem known as the City of David, not in the modern Jewish Quarter, an area that was not part of the city in the tenth or even the ninth century BCE (the period called Solomonic.)

Professor McKay again refutes the charge:

…The excavation al Haj is discussing was not in the modern Jewish Quarter but on the south slopes of the Haram al-Sharif, in other words between the Temple Mount and the City of David.

If you note the petition passage carefully, the writers of the petition are the ones who claim El-Haj is talking about a dig in the Old City’s Jewish Quarter. They don’t even bother to quote El-Haj on this point which makes their entire argument one based on bad faith and gross manipulation of El-Haj’s actual record.

But what I object to most about the campaign to deny El-Haj is that non-academics are attempting to impose their political views on a university and its hiring process. They are attempting to substitute their gross ignorance of the academic field in question for that of scholars steeped in the discipline. This reminds me of Republican attitudes toward medical science. Tom DeLay practically called himself an M.D. as he pontificated on Terry Schiavo’s vital signs. George Bush allows ideology to trump medical science in the stem cell research debate.

Can we let self appointed enforcers of a pro-Israel academic world view impose their standards on Barnard College as they did at DePaul when they sacked Norman Finkelstein? Do we want academic disciplines in which certain ideas cannot be fully debated? Or in which certain ideas and words cannot be uttered without fear of punishment by outsiders?

Jerry Haber of Magnes Zionist and a professor of Jewish studies also wrote an e mail to me on this subject:

Many controversial and revisionist scholars get tenure. Their tenure allows them the freedom to pursue unpopular lines of inquiry, to the considerable displeasure of more conventional scholars. Sorry, I am a 19th century fuddy-duddy about this –…there is a tenure process, and it has to be respected. The critics should be criticized for interference, and the strategy should be to defend not her but the process.

JTA has published an extremely one-sided article on the controversy which implicitly accepts the validity of the petition’s charges and those of the David Project. Why don’t JTA journalists (and they’re not the only one with this problem) not imagine that there might be another Jewish perspective on such a complex and controversial issue?

Here is one problematic passage:

The controversy over El-Haj threatens to raise questions anew about the integrity of Columbia’s scholarship on the Middle East, which first came under fire in 2004 with the release of a documentary film alleging university professors intimidated and embarrassed pro-Israel students who challenged them in class

Well certainly the controversy “raises questions” about Columbia’s scholarship. But are they legitimate questions and are those asking the question legitimate critics? My answer would be a sound “no.” But you won’t hear that opinion in the article because the reporter didn’t bother to reach out to anyone who might voice it.

Here’s another example of journalism that doesn’t fully explore its underlying assumptions:

Columbia’s president, Lee Bollinger, has labored to improve the school’s tarnished image, most recently by becoming the lead signatory to a statement published in the New York Times opposing an academic boycott of Israel.

If El-Haj’s tenure is approved, much of that progress could be undone. It could also hurt the university financially.

Bloom, Maxine Schwartz and Helene Berger — all Florida-based Barnard alums — met with Shapiro in March in Miami to communicate their concerns about Abu El-Haj. Schwartz and Berger both told JTA they would cease support for Barnard if the professor is granted tenure.

Who says that the “progress could be undone” if El-Haj’s tenure is approved. The right wing critics do of course. But is that view reasonable and credible? Or is it debatable?

Then Ben Harris raises the fundraising bugaboo. Whenever rightists try to flex their muscle they always threaten financial boycotts. Daniel Pipes did that when Brandeis invited Norman Finkelstein to speak on campus claiming $5 million in donations would just go away if Finkelstein spoke.

But I’m a veteran university fundraiser. I’ve heard these threats before. If you examine 90% of them they’re made by people who’ve given the school $500 in the past 30 years if that. Did Harris bother to ask how much Schwartz and Berger had given to Barnard to find out if their threat was credible?

Finally, a word about the ideologues behind this campaign. Inside Higher Education has done us the service of showing Campus Watch off for the disingenuous dissemblers they are with these passages:

Winfield Myers, director of Campus Watch, a pro-Israel group that publicizes information about professors who are critical of Israel, said that…his group respects the right of faculty members to decide academic appointments. Myers said, however, that non-academics have every right to make their views known and that Middle Eastern studies professors are trying to prevent that from happening. “It is ultimately for faculty to decide. We’re not saying ‘approve this guy and turn this other fellow down,’ ” Myers said. But he said that academics do not have the right to make these decisions in a “cocoon of silence” in which information about scholars’ “politicized work” isn’t well known…

He stressed that all the groups are doing is publicizing information, not trying to intrude on actual decisions…In getting out the word about these people, Myers said, his group “is not part of some effort to silence the Arab voice.” Rather, he said, his group is trying to open up debate. If Middle Eastern studies scholars are offended by the work of Campus Watch, Myers said, “they aren’t used to getting criticism,” adding that information put out by all groups — his own included — should be open for critique.

In truth, Campus Watch identifies an appropriate shill like Paula Stern and has her do their dirty work. That way their fingerprints aren’t on the murder weapon (murdering a career, that is). A dirty business.

If you want to support El-Haj’s tenure you can sign this counter-petition.

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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • imjudy August 17, 2007, 3:15 AM

    This is a long posting and I haven’t had time to digest it all. Some comments:

    (1) You said that Paula Stern is a ” hard-line right-wing pro-Israel nationalist”.
    SO? What are you implying, that anyone who fits this discription is inherently
    a liar? Ad hominem attacks do not add anything to your arguments.
    (2) What is the “fetish about the Temple Mount” you mention? You claim to be very educated
    Jewishly. Then you are certainly aware that a large part of the TANACH (Bible)
    Talmud, Midrashim and Halachic literature over the millenia deal with the Har HaBayit
    (Temple Mount), Beit HaMikdash (Holy Temple) and the sacrificial system which is currently
    in abeyance for technical reasons but is still very relevant. Jews have been very involved
    with the Har HaBayit since the beginning and many Jewish customs around the year are
    involved in keeping its memory alive.

    (3) The views of Finkelstein, Herzog and the other “minimalists” in the Israeli archeaology are not accepted by most Israeli archaelogists. In fact, I heard a seminar in which other archaelogists attack them for the things you attack the “right-wingers” for, i.e. using their “science” and twisting it to fulfill an anti-Zionist agenda. Two can play this game. You yourself say they are against “Israeli nationalism” and turning Judaism from supposedly a “spiritual” religion into one with an “obsession with land and monuments”. Again, anyone who denies a deep, strong connection between traditional Judaism as practiced over the ages and LAND, Eretz Israel, is simply not knowledgabe about Judaism and Torah.

  • ellen August 17, 2007, 5:02 AM

    Hi Richard,
    I appreciate your throwing light on these scurrilous scoundrels: “The Jewish right-wing is on the warpath again against an imagined academic foe of Israel. Groups like Daniel Pipes’ Campus Watch and David Horowitz’s Frontpagemagazine have turned their life’s work into making the lives of such academics a living hell. They and their allies have gone on the warpath against Princeton when it offered an endowed chair to Rashid Khalidi, Yale when it did the same to Juan Cole, Khalil Shikaki and Natana DeLong-Bas at Brandeis, ”

    Another person who should be added to the list of targets is Dr. Joseph Massad at Columbia Univ.
    Dr. Massad has been seriously hounded for years. I have heard him speak a couple of times. I don’t always understand him – he is a brilliant guy, and I don’t always agree with him, but he has been unfailingly courteous to me in responding to my questions and comments. What makes his situation particularly sad and outrageous and ironic to me is that, to hear the attackers talk about him, one would look for horns, or at least a swastika, yet I’ve seen him often after an event. He walks in the crowd, sometimes alone, sometimes talking to a friend, such a quiet gentle person.

    You know, some people feed on attacks, I think Finklestein does, and that by no means is said to justify them, but I think he gives as good as he gets.
    Dr. Massad strikes me, and I don’t know him personally, but he strikes me very much as a person who would like to be let alone to do his work.

    —ellen

    from Counterpunch:
    [http://www.counterpunch.org/dols04112005.html]

    “The investigation [of Massad and other Middle Eastern professors] was prompted by the documentary film Columbia Unbecoming–produced by the David Project, a pro-Israel advocacy group–that alleges abuse of Jewish students by pro-Palestinian professors. University President Lee Bollinger gave legitimacy to these claims by publicly “assuming” that they were true–and set a dangerous precedent by creating a panel of professors to investigate the Middle Eastern and Asian Languages and Cultures (MEALAC) Department.”

    “Bollinger has remained silent in the face of death threats and racist e-mails sent to MEALAC professors, the subsequent canceling of Massad’s class due to intimidation, and calls from politicians and the New York media for Massad’s firing. Bollinger never met with Massad–though he met with the accusing students.”

    from The Committee on Academic Freedom on the Middle East and North Africa:
    [http://www.campus-watch.org/article/id/1952]
    “In the most thorough journalistic account of the controversy over Dr. Massad, in the November 2 issue of The Jewish Week, staff writer Liel Leibovitz interviewed four of the seven students who reportedly appear in the film, and several dozens others who have attended MEALAC classes over the last five years. According to the article, those who took classes with Dr. Massad, including Jewish and Israeli students, were strikingly positive about their experience.”

    Pressure to dismiss Columbia U Prof Joseph Massad
    by Committee on Academic Freedom on the Middle East and North Africa
    Middle East Studies Association
    November 5, 2004

    http://fp.arizona.edu/mesassoc/CAFMENAletters.htm#041105Columbia

    Friday, 05 November 2004

    Dr. Lee Bollinger
    President
    Columbia University
    New York, NY 10027

    Dear Dr. Bollinger,

    I write on behalf of the Middle East Studies Association of North America and its Committee on Academic Freedom to express our concern regarding numerous public calls for Columbia University to suppress or infringe upon academic freedom. Recently these pressures have extended to demands for the dismissal of a professor in the Department of Middle East and Asian Language and Culture (MEALAC). We are heartened that the university administration has insisted on upholding the fundamental right of free expression in the university community. In this you have our unconditional support, and our encouragement to persevere.

    MESA is…

    The latest salvo against academic freedom at Columbia has come in reports of a film by a Boston-based organization containing allegations against Professor Joseph Massad. According to these allegations, Dr. Massad had expressed views of Israel that were tantamount to anti-Semitism, and had intimidated students who did not share his views. The film has not, as of this writing, been available for public viewing. Its allegations have nonetheless received prominent notice in several New York-area tabloids, assisted by a letter to you, dated October 21, from Representative Anthony D. Weiner, a Brooklyn Congressman, publicly calling on you to “fire” Dr. Massad. Rep. Weiner’s letter also invoked earlier campaigns against Columbia’s appointment of Professor Rashid I. Khalidi to an endowed chair, and the appointment of former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson as Professor in the Practice of Public Affairs.

    In the most thorough journalistic account of the controversy over Dr. Massad, in the November 2 issue of The Jewish Week, staff writer Liel Leibovitz interviewed four of the seven students who reportedly appear in the film, and several dozens others who have attended MEALAC classes over the last five years. According to the article, those who took classes with Dr. Massad, including Jewish and Israeli students, were strikingly positive about their experience.

    We understand that you have asked the Provost of the university to look into the matter. This is certainly an appropriate step if there are any genuine grounds for concern regarding these allegations. Such a response, however, because it has been made public, may also suggest that the university is open to politicized pressure from the outside to silence debate and dissent on Columbia University’s campus. We therefore urge you to take every appropriate opportunity to reassert that Columbia University will continue to uphold the fundamental values of freedom of expression and the free exchange of ideas, and that the campaign of defamation against Dr. Massad will find no resonance within your administration. We assure you of our full support in this endeavor.

    Sincerely,

    Laurie Brand
    President, Middle East Studies Association

    Joe Stork, Human Rights Watch, Middle East
    Lisa Anderson, Columbia University
    Sheila Carapico, University of Richmond
    Kaveh Ehsani, University of Illinois at Chicago
    Gregory Gause, University of Vermont
    Azzedine Layachi, St. John’s University
    A. R. Norton, Boston University
    Marsha Pripstein Posusney, Bryant College
    Donald Reid, Georgia State University
    Glenn Robinson, Naval Postgraduate School

    cc: Rep. Anthony D. Weiner, Member of Congress

    Note: Articles listed under “Middle East Studies in the News” provide information on current developments concerning Middle East studies on North American campuses. These reports do not necessarily reflect the views of Campus Watch and do not necessarily correspond to Campus Watch’s critique.

  • Melvin Schnell August 17, 2007, 5:07 PM

    You have spent a lot of energy defending Norman FInkelstein, Azmi Bishara, and now Nadia. I am waiting for you to write a column on the Israeli victims of terror, such as Kobi Mandell and Malki Roth. Unlike Finkelstein, Bishara and el Haj, their setbacks are permanent. I am wondering if you consider people like Kobi Mandell and Malki Roth to be insignificant losers, and their families loss to pale in significance to the academic political battles of your friends

  • Jesse Walker August 17, 2007, 5:32 PM

    In other cases, they quote such a small portion of El-Haj’s writing that you cannot tell whether she is being quoted in context or not. Take this as an example: ‘She asserts that the ancient Israelite kingdoms are a “pure political fabrication.”’ Why wouldn’t it have been possible to quote an entire sentence or paragraph to determine what El-Haj actually wrote and believes on this subject.

    I just looked this up on Amazon reader. The actual sentence is: “In other words, the modern Jewish/Israeli belief in ancient Israelite origins is not understood as *pure* political fabrication.” The rest of the context is even more exculpatory — check it out for yourself.

  • Richard Silverstein August 17, 2007, 5:42 PM

    Melvin: Your comment is beneath contempt and undeserving of reply. If you need to ask that question of me w/o knowing the answer then you don’t belong here because you’re a hardened ideologue unwilling to concede humanity in yr opponents. I have no interest in addressing someone with that attitude.

  • Richard Silverstein August 17, 2007, 5:52 PM

    You said that Paula Stern is a ” hard-line right-wing pro-Israel nationalist”. SO? What are you implying, that anyone who fits this discription is inherently a liar? Ad hominem attacks do not add anything to your arguments

    What is ad hominem in my attack on her? The petition she wrote contains charges against El Haj which are flat out untrue & a tiny bit of research would’ve uncovered that they were untrue. Either she’s deliberately lying or else she couldn’t be bothered to check whether her charges were true. That’s not an ad hominem attack. It’s an attack based on her argument, such as it is.

    Then you are certainly aware that a large part of the TANACH (Bible)
    Talmud, Midrashim and Halachic literature over the millenia deal with the Har HaBayit (Temple Mount), Beit HaMikdash (Holy Temple) and the sacrificial system

    I’m also aware that there has been a period of a millenium or so when there has been no Temple. I’m aware that Yochanan ben Zakkai deliberately established a communal religious structure that could survive w/o a physically central geographic institution, a structure that could survive exile and all the other savageries that have beset us throughout that period.

    Like Finkelstein in the Ynet story I don’t worship buildings & I don’t worship priestly castes. I worship ideas, values and traditions. The Temple is but one of those traditions, but by no means the only one.

    anyone who denies a deep, strong connection between traditional Judaism as practiced over the ages and LAND, Eretz Israel, is simply not knowledgabe about Judaism and Torah.

    Nor do I deny it. But what “land” are we talking about? And what is our attitude toward it? Are we talking about Jerusalem and Tel Aviv or are we talking about Hebron, Gaza or Mt. Sinai for that matter? Do we merely acknowledge our connection to those places outside the Green Line or must we OWN them? If you insist we must physically HAVE those places then you are a literalist about our tradition, which I am not. I am perfectly cnotent to realize Jewish peoplehood within the Green Line. That is more than sufficient for me.

  • Richard Silverstein August 17, 2007, 6:14 PM

    Jesse: That’s dynamite. It shows even more bad faith on the part of the petition writers & their right wing allies. Here’s a link for page 250 of the book in Amazon reader and the sentence in context is:

    While by early the 1990s, virtually all archaeologists argued for the need to disentangle the goals of their professional practice from the quest for Jewish origins and objects that framed an earlier archaeological project, the fact that there is some national-cultural connection between contemporary (Israeli)-Jews and such objects was not itself generally open to sustained discussion. That commitment remained, for the most part, and for most practicing archaeologists, fundamental. (Although archaelogists argued increasingly that the archaeological past should have no bearing upon contemporary political claims). In other words, the modern Jewish/Israeli belief in ancient Israelite origins is not understood as *pure* political fabrication.

    These people are intellectual jackals.

  • Eris August 17, 2007, 6:40 PM

    In truth, Campus Watch identifies an appropriate shill like Paula Stern and has her do their dirty work. That way their fingerprints aren’t on the murder weapon (murdering a career, that is). A dirty business.

    That is a very serious charge indeed. Potentially libelous. Proof, please?

  • Richard Silverstein August 17, 2007, 8:32 PM

    Eris: I have a challenge for you. Contact Paula Stern and Winfield Myer at Campus Watch and ask them whether they communicated with each other regarding this petition or Nadia Abu El-Haj. If they both deny it I’ll publish their denial here. I won’t believe it. But I’ll publish it.

    And while you’re at it ask Paula Stern how she first heard of Abu El-Haj and if she doesn’t say from a Frontpagemagazine or Campus Watch story I’ll eat my hat. And then ask her where the actual content of her petition was lifted from. If it wasn’t from material in either of those publications I’ll eat another hat.

  • liberal white boy August 18, 2007, 11:44 AM

    “These people are intellectual jackals.”

    Surely you had figured this out before this.

  • Paula Stern August 18, 2007, 1:22 PM

    I can answer this honestly and openly. No, I did not contact Campus Watch before posting the petition. I did not ask their opinion. I did not seek their advice. I have no need. All I had to do was read Abu El Haj’s “Facts on the Ground.” Did Silverstein commit slander in his post? Probably – but who cares? I don’t listen to what he wrote or give it wait – I DO value and give importance to the dozen or so experts who have commented on El Haj’s shoddy work. I was in Israel when Palestinian mobs rampaged and desecrated Joseph’s Tomb in Nablus. El Haj refers to this as “In destroying the tomb, Palestinian demonstrators eradicated one ‘fact on the ground.’”
    No, what they did was rampage, burn and destroy an important historical, religious, and archeological site. As for my politics…congratulations, you know how to use Google. But my politics has nothing to do with the fact that Abu El Haj has used and abused her dissertation to put forth HER political agenda…that might be expected, has she bothered to do the research necessary to back up her position. She didn’t.

    As for her knowing Hebrew – the book is riddled with mistakes in Hebrew – simple, basic words she got wrong. She spent virtually no time consulting the real experts in the field, ignores common and acceptable Israeli archeological working methods and assumes to know what is proper and what is not. She makes no mention of the momentous damage done by the bulldozers on the Temple Mount – being employed by the Islamic WAKF as they attempt to do physically what El Haj attempted to do on paper…that is, deny and destroy the Jewish connection to Israel.

    As for a counter petition, I am not concerned, and am even grateful. The more controversy this issue kicks up, hopefully the harder and deeper Columbia will look into what Nadia Abu El Haj has written. The more they look, the more they will, indeed, see and read and smell something rotten. Abu El Haj should be denied tenure – not because she is anti-Israel and from her comments on Jews and Jewish genetics, most likely an anti-Semite as well. No, she should be denied tenure for one simple reason – she lacks credibility. She lacks the credentials worthy of a professor at one of the most prestigious universities in the country.

  • Paula Stern August 18, 2007, 2:42 PM

    Sorry, missed this the first time around:

    You wrote: “And while you’re at it ask Paula Stern how she first heard of Abu El-Haj and if she doesn’t say from a Frontpagemagazine or Campus Watch story I’ll eat my hat. And then ask her where the actual content of her petition was lifted from. If it wasn’t from material in either of those publications I’ll eat another hat.”

    Please post pictures of the two hats you will eat. I first heard about Abu El Haj from a Barnard graduate who was horrified about the possibility that she might reach tenure. She posted a note to all Barnard graduates on a list in Israel and I saw it, contacted her and …that’s your first hat. You might want to get a glass of water while you chew.

    I consulted neither FrontPage nor Campus Watch for the petition content. There was no reason – all that is there…and much more…has been posted in a large and complete section on my website: http://www.paulasays.com. I combined that with notes I took while researching and reading El Haj’s book – and that’s the second hat. I challenge you to post pictures on this site because you most definitely own me an apology – and perhaps a video of the hat-eating ceremony!

  • Zhu Bajie August 18, 2007, 4:29 PM

    Well, I *am* an archaeologist, or used to be. It was obvious that certain periods (like the late Iron Age or the Hellenistic/Roman periods) get a lot of attention and Ummayad period sites don’t. Eg, I visited Khirbet MInya, a lovely small Ummayad palace on the banks of the Sea of Galilee. It’s famous for its mosaics, but they were not at all protected from tourists wanting to take away bits of stone. I have no idea if anything is left now, 20 years later.

    Not that there’s not lots of conservation problems with other periods.

    Languages: Israeli archaeologists publish both in Hebrew and English. Probably French and German as well.

    As for the tenure problems, I’m glad I live in China now. I don’t get tenure, but I don’t face a political inquisition, either.

    Zhu Bajie, going up and down and to and fro in the world

  • Montag August 18, 2007, 5:45 PM

    Richard, reminds me of a case a few years ago in which an author got a letter from the Turkish Embassy criticizing his mention of the “Armenian Genocide” in his book. What shocked the author is that along with the Embassy’s letter was an accidentally enclosed letter from a scholar TO the embassy, advising them on how to deal with the author in order to maintain the fiction that there was no historical consensus on the genocide as a proven fact. Ironically, the quisling scholar had suggested that they ignore the author’s book because it was not that important.

    What shocked the author was that in the correspondence from the scholar to the embassy the genocide WAS treated as a historical fact! So they knew they were promoting a lie. Of course the author publicized the scholar’s letter, which indicated that he was prostituting his expertise in order to promote a lie. Needless to say, his name was MUD among his peers from then on.

    The same tactic is being used here–if you throw enough manure against the wall some of it will stick.

  • Richard Silverstein August 18, 2007, 8:43 PM

    I DO value and give importance to the dozen or so experts who have commented on El Haj’s shoddy work.

    NO, you give “value & importance” only to those “experts” who have savaged her work. Many other scholars have spoken highly favorably of her work. You have ignored them as inconvenient to yr ideological agenda.

    As for her knowing Hebrew – the book is riddled with mistakes in Hebrew – simple, basic words she got wrong.

    I’m waiting…what are they. One review that trashed her mentioned that she mistook nachal for neve. I haven’t even researched this to validate that the charge is correct. But that’s one possible mistake. What are the others? And DO pls quote fr. her text & provide page numbers to allow us to judge for ourselves whether your judgement is valid or not.

    She makes no mention of the momentous damage done by the bulldozers on the Temple Mount

    What I do love about right wing pro-Israel nationalists is that they are actually insulted when you don’t address their own agenda in your writing. Who says Abu El-Haj’s has to take into account yr obssessions? Who says she has to address what you find important? She addresses what she finds important. You have yr own megaphone at IsraelInsider. Go scream bloody murder about Arab perfidy there all you want. But don’t expect Abu El-Haj to kowtow to you or yr concerns.

    The more they look, the more they will, indeed, see and read and smell something rotten.

    Actually, the more one looks at your work and petition the more rotten it smells.

    I first heard about Abu El Haj from a Barnard graduate

    Please DO tell us where SHE first heard of Abu El Haj. I’m waiting for the answer…

  • imjudy August 19, 2007, 12:44 AM

    Richard, there you go again with the ad hominem attacks that you claim you don’t use. Here is your quote….

    —————————-

    What I do love about right wing pro-Israel nationalists is that they are actually insulted when you don’t address their own agenda in your writing.

    ——————————–

    I want you either to provide PROOF that all “right-wing pro-Israel nationalists” do all the nefarious things you claim, or to retract your claims. As a matter of fact, I have enountered “progressives” who are liars , cheats, dishonest and all the other epithets you have used against “right-wing pro-Israel nationalists. On the other hand, I know “progressives” who are honest, upright people. Again, either you provide PROOF that ALL “right-wing pro-Israel nationalists” have all the bad characteristics you mention or retract your ad hominem attacks.

  • Richard Silverstein August 19, 2007, 1:12 AM

    I want you either to provide PROOF that all “right-wing pro-Israel nationalists” do all the nefarious things you claim, or to retract your claims

    I seem to have hit a raw nerve. I didn’t say ALL right wing pro israel nationalists demand that I write according to their agenda. Such a statement would be absurd because many, if not most of them don’t even know I exist. I meant that most of those fitting that description who comment here at this blog at one time or another berate me for not writing about some Arab outrage or another and use this as evidence that I’m either an Arab lover or hater of my own people. Sorry for hitting that nerve & hope this clarifies my thinking.

    And let’s be clear about what an ad hominem attack IS. It’s not what you say it is. It’s an attack against a person rather than their argument. And what I wrote was not a personal attack therefore not ad hominem.

  • Emma January 12, 2009, 7:12 AM

    Nadia is not an archeologist [sic].
    Her book is not about archeology [sic].
    Archeologists follow a specific methodology, Nadia doesn’t.
    Kapos…this web-site won’t save you.

    • Richard Silverstein January 12, 2009, 10:56 AM

      Emma is not an archaelogist (nor does she know how to spell) OR anthropologist. She doesn’t know jack about either field. Professor Abu El Haj (unless you know her personally, it is insulting to address her by her first name) follows an anthropological methodology. Emma doesn’t. Moron…your ignorance will not save you.

  • Jay Draiman August 3, 2009, 5:04 PM

    [comment deleted for violating comment rules]