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Columbia Grants Abu El-Haj Tenure

nadia abu el hajNadia Abu El-Haj (Barnard College)

The long, arduous journey of Nadia Abu El-Haj, Barnard professor of anthropology, to tenure is finally over. The Columbia administration has approved Barnard’s recommendation and she will become tenured faculty on approval of both institutions’ boards of trustees. Thanks to Sol Salbe for noting the JTA report on this from earlier today. However, a Jewish journalist friend of mine has pointed out a typical JTA error in the copy for the story:

El-Haj is the author of “Facts on the Ground,” a book that attacks the Israeli archaeological establishment for fabricating material used to legitimize Israeli policies.

My friend called this sentence:

a complete and utter distortion of the book, which, of course, the journalist, whoever he/she might be, has not read. What he/she has read is Paula Stern’s petition or Gabrielle Berkner’s New York Sun story. On deadline, people [just] WRITE STUFF. It’s a pity The Sun gets to set the template.

It would have been much more precise to say that Abu El Haj’s book attacks the Israeli archaeological establishment for fabricating ideas used to legitimate Israel’s national identity. She has never accused Israeli archaeologists of fabricating materials or evidence.

I should add that even the notorious neocon NY Sun got the story basically right this time (though of course they refused to include an interview with anyone defending Abu El Haj’s views). They call her:

A Barnard College professor who argues in her scholarly work that archeological evidence has been manipulated to justify the existence of a modern Jewish state…

In the book, Ms. Abu El-Haj, who is a Palestinian Arab, writes that Israeli archaeologists use their research to further an origin myth about the homeland of the Jewish people.

There are two issues here. First, the academic issue: Columbia, in granting her tenure has reaffirmed its commitment to considering tenure and advancement decisions based on a scholar’s academic record and free from political interference. In this regard, the decision arrived at was the only one Columbia could’ve made if it wanted its academic reputation to be intact.

Second, is the political issue. Campus Watch, Frontpagemagazine, the David Project and their allies among Barnard alumni who campaigned against Abu El-Haj have lost this round. I say round because to them this clearly is a never-ending ideological war. No doubt they will be back when the Barnard professor publishes her next research into Jewish genetics and genealogy. No doubt they will be trolling for the next Abu El Haj to whom they can take an ax. But the good news is that they have been stopped here. Academia finally said to them: here and no farther.

JTA describes Columbia’s statement:

[It] said El-Haj had passed the college’s “rigorous” tenure process and expressed confidence in her ability to contribute to scholarship and learning at Barnard.

“Tenure, together with the norms of academic freedom that pertain to all faculty, gives scholars the liberty to advance ideas, regardless of their political impact, so that their work may be openly debated and play a critical role in shaping knowledge in the scholar’s academic field,” the statement said.

There will be a temptation by the Foxmans of the Jewish world to pile on Columbia. I hope they resist the inclination. But if they don’t we will be there to call them for their cynical manipulations of issues like academic freedom and anti-Semitism.

It’s both instructive and entertaining to read Paula Stern’s delusional ramblings on the defeat of her campaign against the Barnard anthropologist. Poor Nadia is likened to those who have hung nooses and swastikas lately on the doors of other Columbia professors:

This is a warning to Jewish students at Barnard and Columbia – you will now have one more professor to avoid, one more purveyor of hate in your ranks. Already the lowest forms of life are crawling out amid the ivy. A swastika was painted on a door of a Jewish professor at Columbia, a noose on the door of a black professor, more swastikas in other places – think you that there is no connection?

Barnard president Judith Shapiro comes in for her share of opprobrium:

Shapiro can have little doubt that many will remember her for the seeds she planted long after she is gone from Barnard. These are the seeds of hatred and racism.

Here Stern acknowledges that she took a Columbia course from one of the great Zionist teachers of the 20th century:

While at Columbia, I took an amazing class, the History of Zionism, with Rabbi Arthur Hertzberg. It was an enlightening class by a brilliant man. He put forth the idea that you should not fight a battle unless you know you can win. To lose, he told us, is to damage yourself more. Better not to fight at all.

I disagreed then, and I disagree now. You fight evil. You fight injustice. Even knowing you will likely lose – you fight it so that the next time, the fight will be easier and perhaps in the next battle, those who fought against evil will triumph.

She of course distorts Hertzberg’s views as she has distorted Abu El Haj’s. Hertzberg was one of the great fighters against evil and injustice. In fact, he was one of the most principled and vociferous Zionist doves regarding the Israeli-Arab conflict precisely because he understood the injustice done to Palestinians in creating the Jewish state. He would doubtless stand aghast at the views and behavior of his former student, if not disown her.

Here Stern lumps together those of us who supported Abu El Haj’s tenure bid with the big bad anti-Semit’n:

The anti-Semites think they have won – and they are painting their glory across the campus with swastikas. This too is a sign that Columbia has lost its way.

Should anyone need proof that Stern has taken leave of her senses, read this:

Though our hearts are heavy, victory goes to those who fought a good fight, a clean fight, an honest one.

Sure, if you leave out the lies, distortions and fabrications it was one helluva good, clean, honest fight.

Here is more of Stern’s ‘clean, honest’ lies:

As for El Haj, let her be warned – the fight will continue to be waged. She can deny Israel’s right to exist all that she wishes and attempt to rewrite Israel’s history

Stern never provided a single example during her entire campaign of Abu El Haj “denying Israel’s right to exist.”

Finally, I would add that for those who disagree with Abu El Haj in a principled way there is the time-honored tradition of academic debate in the world of ideas. I urge them to follow her work; critique it; argue with it; don’t accept it at face value. But do so while remaining true to the standards of evidence and debate. Read her work. Quote it properly. Marshal counter-evidence. Publicize your findings. But do not smear; do not lie; do not use intellectual short cuts.

There will no doubt be calls to boycott Columbia’s fundraising program by alumni. I urge Columbia alumni (like myself) to contribute to Columbia and Barnard even more than you have in the past. Show the Daniel Pipes, Paula Sterns and Diana Muirs of the world that for every chnyuk who boycotts Columbia another one of us will step forward to take their place.

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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Zhu Bajie November 4, 2007, 1:06 AM

    “As for El Haj, let her be warned – the fight will continue to be waged.” — Stern

    I had a feeling that the p*ssing match would continue.

    Zhu Bajie

  • Art Deco November 6, 2007, 6:45 PM

    There are two issues here. First, the academic issue: Columbia, in granting her tenure has reaffirmed its commitment to considering tenure and advancement decisions based on a scholar’s academic record and free from political interference. In this regard, the decision arrived at was the only one Columbia could’ve made if it wanted its academic reputation to be intact.

    Mr. Silverstien, Nadia abu el-Haj has been kicking around in academe for twelve years. In that time, she has published the following:

    1. One book, Facts on the Ground, issued six years ago. It is in fact her doctoral dissertation edited for publication and is based on two years of field work done prior to 1995. (it is a rather modest volume, with 280 pages of text and 70 pages of notes).

    2. Several commentaries and book reviews

    3. An article in the American Ethnologist which is a discussion of Edward Said’s career as a polemicist. (“This article offers a reading of Edward Said’s legacy. It engages Said’s scholarly and political insights, on the one hand, and his vision of and life as an intellectual,…”).

    4. Four articles, one in Radical History Review, one in the American Ethnologist, one in Israel Studies, and one a chapter in a monograph titled Memory and violence in the Middle East and North Africa chewing over the subject addressed in her book/dissertation. The notes of the article in Radical History Review are an odd jumble of secondary sources having little to do with anthropology and its contents are billed as “Reflections on” (as opposed to “Research on”). For the article in Israel Studies, she does appear to have done some archival research in the Public Records Office in London, but her bibliography otherwise looks quite similar to that in her book. For the article in The American Ethnologist, the references are much more in keeping with the subject of anthropology, but they are characteristic of a review of extant academic literature and replicate the literature consulted for her book. Consider note 5 to the article in Israel Studies,

    “5. It is far more historically accurate to understand Zionism as a colonial project (which is articulated in a particular way with a nationalist one), and on those grounds alone, it should be analyzed as such….”

    and note 4 to the article in Radical History Review,

    “4. It is far more historically accurate to understand Zionism as a colonial project, which is articulated in a particular bay with a nationalist one, that to occlude the colonial question altogether.”

    5. What appears to be a literature review which has just appeared in Annual Review of Anthropology. The abstract reads (in part) as follows:

    ” I explore the relationship between race and the new genetics by considering whether this “race” is the same scientific object as that produced by race science and whether these race-making practices are animated by similar social and political logics. I consider the styles of reasoning characteristic of the scientific work together with the economic and political rationalities of neo-liberalism, including identity politics as it meets biological citizenship. I seek to understand why and how group-based diversity emerges as an object of value…in the networks that sustain the world of (post)genomics today.”

    In twelve years, she has edited her dissertation and produced a half-dozen articles. Columbia is a research institution with cachet. Presumably it does not grant tenure to most folk who apply (Harvard turns down 80% of all applicants). At the institution I know best, a liberal arts college a cut below Columbia in its reputation (and one that grants tenure to ~ 60% of applicants), those granted tenure have generally written just as much in half the time. Consider also, that she appears to have done no field work in ~14 years, one of her articles offers no addition to the deposit of anthropological knowledge, four of them appear (at least at first glance) to be of recycled material, and the last incorporates no empirical research and does not appear to be a genuine exercise in the construction of a testable theory either. How many others have been granted tenure at Columbia in the last decade with a portfolio like hers? Why are you so confident that her ‘academic record’ has been the driver of the deliberations over her employment, and that Columbia’s ‘academic reputation’ would have been damaged had her colleagues said that sitting at her desk cogitating really did not amount to the practice of anthropology, so go teach somewhere else?

  • Richard Silverstein November 7, 2007, 12:43 AM

    First, a little background on Art Deco, whose blogroll links prominently to National Association of Scholars‘-affiliated sites. From which we may assume that he/she supports this group founded with the assistance of David Horowitz. That puts yr comment in proper perspective.

    You make a pretence of listing all of Abu El Haj’s publications w/o telling us where your information comes from so we can check the validity of your claim. I note that Abu El Haj’s academic web page lists under “Selected Publications” as many publications as you note, which means there are probably more than you note.

    Regarding Abu El Haj’s book. Not only was it published by University of Chicago Press, one of the most prestigious academic presses in the country, it won the Middle East Studies Association of North America’s 2002 Albert Hourani Book Award, which recognizes outstanding publishing in Middle East studies. That’s no small achievement. Could you tell us whether you have any similar awards to yr credit? And who’s published your books?

    Edward Said’s career as a polemicist

    Methinks the polemicist is you.

    You quote two repeated sentences in two different publications as if to say that Abu El Haj’s entire oeuvre is virtually a rehash of her book. Two sentences out of an entire academic record do not prove your argument.

    At the institution I know best, a liberal arts college a cut below Columbia in its reputation (and one that grants tenure to ~ 60% of applicants), those granted tenure have generally written just as much in half the time.

    Well, yes you have written at least one accurate thing here: Colgate, where you teach, IS a cut below Columbia. First, I don’t know that the publication statistics for your claim are correct. Second, you are comparing her to the average faculty member and not to someone in her field. Tell us about the average publication record for someone at your school in anthropology. You also neglect to mention that faculty members are also judged based on individual considerations rather than a norm. There are many faculty who have written only one or two books in their entire careers and been respected members of their department & academic specialty. While Abu El Haj has many more productive years ahead of her in which she will publish further works.

    she appears to have done no field work in ~14 years,

    And you know this precisely how? Her current research is into genetics. How are you certain that she has not done field work as part of this research? Are you privy to her academic, travel and research schedule?

    four of them appear (at least at first glance) to be of recycled material,

    I assume “at first glance” is another way of saying you didn’t read them. And you expect us to credit your judgment of them based on this?

    How many others have been granted tenure at Columbia in the last decade with a portfolio like hers?

    I’d guess many. And if you’re claiming some nefarious conspiracy to “fix” her getting tenure I wish you’d come out with it instead of skirting around the issue.

    Why are you so confident that her ‘academic record’ has been the driver of the deliberations over her employment

    Because she was vetted by numerous departmental and campus committees throughout the process. Members of these committees not only evaluated her work but solicited the evaluations of others in her field. As a faculty member, you certainly know that tenure is not a done deal nor is it done lightly. That it takes a great deal to earn tenure.

    As a Columbia alum I know the quality of faculty there & I have every confidence based on what I know of her work that she deserves to be there. And those who judged her tenure appplication agreed.

    Why are you so confident that…Columbia’s ‘academic reputation’ would have been damaged had her colleagues said…go teach somewhere else?

    Because if Columbia had said that, it might as well have handed over its tenure process in fields related to Middle East studies to Campus Watch, Frontpagemagazine, the David Project and Paula Stern. It would’ve made the school the laughingstock of the Ivies and placed it in a realm with DePaul, a school which appears to believe that the lack of professional “civility” in a candidate is grounds for denying tenure.

  • Art Deco November 7, 2007, 5:33 PM

    First, a little background on Art Deco, whose blogroll links prominently to National Association of Scholars‘-affiliated sites. From which we may assume that he/she supports this group founded with the assistance of David Horowitz. That puts yr comment in proper perspective.

    Actually, I thought they had interesting posts, which is why I link to them. Their blog is updated infrequently and does not permit comments, so I do not check it often. It seems a perfectly respectable association of people with an academic affiliation, but I am not a member. There was once a chapter at Binghamton University organized by Saul Levin, a professor of linguistics, but it appears to have disbanded and there are no others hereabouts. Their home site does not indicate much about their organization’s history, but if I recall correctly articles (in either Time or Newsweek, I do not remember) about the association published not long after its formation, it was founded by an elderly professor at one of the University of Wisconsin campuses. If I read their membership requirements correctly, David Horowitz is not eligible to join.

    You make a pretence of listing all of Abu El Haj’s publications w/o telling us where your information comes from so we can check the validity of your claim. I note that Abu El Haj’s academic web page lists under “Selected Publications” as many publications as you note, which means there are probably more than you note.

    For the record, I sought out articles she had published with searches of the following citation databases:

    1. Academic Search Premier
    2. Anthropological Literature [RLG]
    3. GEOBASE
    4. Historical Abstracts
    5. Index Islamicus
    6. Index to Jewish Periodicals
    7. International Bibliography of the Social Sciences
    8. PAIS
    9. Sociological Abstracts
    10. Worldwide Political Science Abstracts

    I supplemented that with searches of the following assemblages of full-text articles:

    1. AnthroSource
    2. JSTOR
    3. Project Muse

    And I looked for any monographs she might have composed by searching the following:

    1. Dissertation Abstracts Online
    2. eHRAF Collection of Ethnography (in which author searches are not possible. I had
    to browse the collection of ethnographies written on groups in Israel).
    3. WorldCat

    It was my assumption that there might not, from one database to another, be a consistent way of indexing her surname, so I structured my author searches to take account of that.

    Now, I thought it possible that I had missed material too obscure for these sources (most particularly if she had published in foreign languages) or in formats that are not consistently covered by indexing and abstracting services (e.g. book chapters). For that reason, I took a look at her office website, on which I found that article she placed in Annual Review of Anthropology, which had been issued too recently to have been picked up by indexing services. Since her list of ‘selected publications’ sees fit to include a brief exchange with another author placed in The American Ethnologist, the sort of thing I suspect does not matter squat to most tenure-and-promotion committees, I also suspect there is not much of consequence omitted on her site.

    Regarding Abu El Haj’s book. Not only was it published by University of Chicago Press, one of the most prestigious academic presses in the country, it won the Middle East Studies Association of North America’s 2002 Albert Hourani Book Award, which recognizes outstanding publishing in Middle East studies. That’s no small achievement. Could you tell us whether you have any similar awards to yr credit? And who’s published your books?

    It was my point that her book likely did not represent an addition to the deposit of her research, as it was an edited version of the dissertation she completed in 1995. That achievement was recognized by the awarding of her degree. What I have done or not done is of no consequence. I am not in that line of work, and am in no danger of being granted permanent employment by Columbia University or any other entity.

    Methinks the polemicist is you.

    I am not in that line of work either.

    You quote two repeated sentences in two different publications as if to say that Abu El Haj’s entire oeuvre is virtually a rehash of her book. Two sentences out of an entire academic record do not prove your argument.

    I examined the bibliography of one of her articles and discovered it was a subset of the bibliography of her book. I examined the bibliography of another and discovered that the bulk of the source material was used for her book, bar some archival material from the Public Records Office in London. I examined a third bibliography and discovered it contained some of the same material made reference to in her book and a batch of other material irrelevant to the discipline of anthropology. That is something indicative, not probative. The nearly identical language used in those two footnotes was a surprise I happened upon. Perhaps she was developing a line of argument in the articles at a variance with that in her book, emphasizing in some detail some matter covered previously more cursorily, or whatever. My point was that it is warranted to adopt a default position of skepticism that the articles represented additional research.

    Well, yes you have written at least one accurate thing here: Colgate, where you teach, IS a cut below Columbia. First, I don’t know that the publication statistics for your claim are correct. Second, you are comparing her to the average faculty member and not to someone in her field. Tell us about the average publication record for someone at your school in anthropology. You also neglect to mention that faculty members are also judged based on individual considerations rather than a norm. There are many faculty who have written only one or two books in their entire careers and been respected members of their department & academic specialty. While Abu El Haj has many more productive years ahead of her in which she will publish further works.

    I am familiar with several of the local institutions, which include two liberal arts colleges. I am not an instructor at either one of them. I am also familiar with institutions in my home town and institutions I have attended.

    A digression,

    Let us imagine her career path had been somewhat more conventional for the successful academic. She completes graduate school, spends perhaps two years as a visiting professor, is then hired by Selective College, and after five years submits a dossier of her teaching and research. In 2002, she had to her credit the publication of her dissertation, the one article in The American Ethnologist (which appears derivative) and one article in Israel Studies, a new and obscure journal. If the provost of the college is examining four or five dossiers, her portfolio of research completed over the previous seven years is likely to be the slimmest of them. You do raise a valid point, though. Academic leave policies are such at most institutions that cultural anthropologists seldom have the sort of discrete bloc of time at their disposal that she did with her initial field work. I have been doing a little spelunking around and it does appear that ethnographers do put pen to paper less than do economists.

    And you know this precisely how? Her current research is into genetics. How are you certain that she has not done field work as part of this research? Are you privy to her academic, travel and research schedule?

    The article in Israel Studies makes reference to archival research, not field research. What she has published on ‘genomics’ in the Annual Review of Anthropology is an exercise in the discussion of academic literature. It does not make references to observation or experimental studies by the author, in its text or bibliography. The author’s acts and objects are stated thus: “I explore the relationship between race and the new genetics by considering whether this “race” is the same scientific object as that produced by “race science” and whether these race-making practices are animated by similar social and political logics.” This sounds like an enterprise more akin to literary criticism than social research (and, come to think of it, she does have an affinity for Edward Said).

    I assume “at first glance” is another way of saying you didn’t read them. And you expect us to credit your judgment of them based on this?

    Sir, you have expressed the utmost confidence in her scholarship. My purpose here is to point out the red-flags that the layman can see.

    I’d guess many. And if you’re claiming some nefarious conspiracy to “fix” her getting tenure I wish you’d come out with it instead of skirting around the issue.

    I am making no such claim. I am not privy to the internal deliberations of either her department or the provost of the institution and his camarilla. My question was posed to you, as the initial assertions were by you. I have seen contemporaries of Dr. Abu el-Haj sporting a much longer list of accomplishments denied tenure at lesser institutions than Columbia. I think you would be hard put to find (at selective institutions) too many folk working in the social or natural sciences who were permanently retained without a baseline of four papers reporting recent research. The charitable understanding of what has gone on is that work in cultural and social anthropology is evaluated differently (noting, however, that her work was more sociological than anthropological).

    … she was vetted by numerous departmental and campus committees throughout the process. Members of these committees not only evaluated her work but solicited the evaluations of others in her field. As a faculty member [I am not], you certainly know that tenure is not a done deal nor is it done lightly. That it takes a great deal to earn tenure.

    To say that examination for tenure is a purely meritocratic process is a claim that I have actually not ever heard or seen a professor utter in anything but a letter to the editor. As Alan Wolfe put it about a decade ago, “in thirty years of attending these discussions, I have heard the word ‘fit’ much more often than the word ‘merit’”. Norman Finkelstein was ‘vetted’, as was Robert “KC” Johnson. Neither man’s experiences were advertisements for unlimited faculty prerogative.

    ..Because if Columbia had said that, it might as well have handed over its tenure process in fields related to Middle East studies to Campus Watch, Frontpagemagazine, the David Project and Paula Stern. It would’ve made the school the laughingstock of the Ivies and placed it in a realm with DePaul, a school which appears to believe that the lack of professional “civility” in a candidate is grounds for denying tenure.

    The logic of what you have suggested is that the grant of tenure should be decisively influenced by the contrary opinions of your list of bogies, rather than on the candidate’s teaching and scholarship. Are you sure you want to go there?

    The grounds for denying tenure to Norman Finkelstein were that he had no scholarly publications to his credit, in the discipline of political science or in any other discipline. All of his work subsequent to his dissertation was of a polemical nature, which is why the man calls himself a ‘forensic scholar’. That the political science department was willing to grant him tenure was an argument for putting that department in receivership.

  • Richard Silverstein November 7, 2007, 7:53 PM

    David Horowitz is not eligible to join.

    First, NAS’s agenda mirrors precisely Horowitz’ & all the campus oriented groups & projects he has undertaken. Second, when NAS started Horowitz’ name was affiliated with it & I believe he played some role. Third, NAS has been funded by the Scaife & Olin Foundations, known for their arch right-wing philanthropic/political agendas.

    I will credit that your search for Abu El Haj’s publication record was extensive. But it was done entirely online & there is always the chance that some publications will not appear in any of the sources you consulted.

    Calling Edward Said a “polemicist” tells us much more about yr own views than his. Just because his views diverge fr. yours does not make him into a polemicist.

    Norman Finkelstein was ‘vetted’

    He was indeed…vetted by his department which approved him & vetted by a campus wide tenure committee which approved him. He was rejected by a dean & the dean’s spitefulness was confirmed by the president almost solely on the basis of his lack of professional civility.

    Your characterization of why Finkelstein was refused tenure is entirely inaccurate. You should review his CV & list of publications before making such a spurious statement. In addition, in the written denial the dean & president who rejected him did not make such a claim. Their major claim was his lack of “collegiality” which was prob. a veiled reference to his book attacking Dershowitz.

    Regarding yr skepticism about Abu El Haj’s written record–you are entirely justified in being skeptical as long as you are not unfair, unduly harsh or make rash judgments.

    You were also inaccurate in assuming her book is basically her dissertation. Over 1/3 of the book is entirely new research not in the dissertation. Also, shortly the University of Chicago Press will publish her 2nd book. The fact that the book was accepted for publication I’m sure weighed in the tenure decision.

    The logic of what you have suggested is that the grant of tenure should be decisively influenced by the contrary opinions of your list of bogies, rather than on the candidate’s teaching and scholarship.

    I’m not quite sure what you’re trying to say here. But if I understand what you are saying you are entirely flipping my clear statement on its head. I do NOT think tenure decisions should be impacted by external actors like Alan Dershowitz or Campus Watch or Paula Stern. I DO think they should be made based on the criteria you listed. Finkelstein’s tenure decision WAS largely based on the pressure exerted by external actors which influenced the dean & president, who I am sure will live to regret their cravenness if they do not do so already.

    That the political science department was willing to grant him tenure was an argument for putting that department in receivership.

    That the dean & president of the institution capitulated to Alan Dershowitz & the other far right pressure groups is an argument for putting the entire university into receivership. And that’s precisely what it HAS done in terms of the impact this will have on its academic reputation (which wasn’t terribly high to begin with).

  • Art Deco November 7, 2007, 9:26 PM

    I have no clue as to what association David Horowitz has had with regard to the National Association of Scholars, and do not care. I think at the time it was founded (ca. 1985) he was earning his living writing popular biographies in conjunction with his friend Peter Collier. I am not sure why grants from the Olin or Scaife foundation are tainted and grants from other foundations are not. Some of the Association’s prominent members are conservatives (e.g Robert P. George), some are not (KC Johnson, Thomas Reeves). The Association’s publications are available for your perusal and its complaints about aspects of contemporary academic life forthrightly stated. David Horowitz is not on their advisory board and I fail to see why it is salient that he may have had some involvement with its founding.

    I have reviewed the sum of Norman G. Finkelstein’s publications. (Please note, there is another Prof. Norman Finkelstein who is precisely the same age. Their publications should not be confounded). There is simply nothing on it which qualifies as academic research, and he works within no subdiscipline of political science. He did place articles in an academic periodical, the Journal of Palestine Studies, but things such as his brief memoir of having taught summer school on the West Bank do not qualify as scholarly research.

    If you’ve a mind, you can repair to the discussion of his case on Inside Higher Education and pay particular attention to the remarks of the DePaul faculty member who commented both on the Vincentian ethos and the character of the political science department at DePaul as it related to Finkelstein’s case. It is the business of the provost and superodinate officials to review the work of the department and the committees. That is why they have the authority they do. Whatever reasons they offered for public consumption (and which they may subscribe to quite honestly), they had a responsibility to correct a blatant abuse of discretion on the part of the political science faculty. That Finkelstein has no scholarly publications is a matter of public record. The internal deliberations within the provost’s head are not, your insistence that you apprehend his motives notwithstanding.

    Edward Said was a professor of comparative literature. He was also a political partisan, long a member of the Palestine National Council, an auxilliary to the P.L.O., and had a long record of publication outside the scholarly realm. He also fabricated salient aspects of his personal biography, again in the service of a political narrative. I am not sure why you find the appellation “polemicist” to describe much of his life and work to be inappropriate. A discussion of his most noted work outside the realm of literary criticism can be found in Martin Kramer’s Ivory Towers on Sand.

    Over 1/3 of the book is entirely new research not in the dissertation.

    Did you do the content analysis yourself?

  • Richard Silverstein November 7, 2007, 11:05 PM

    I think at the time it was founded (ca. 1985) he was earning his living writing popular biographies in conjunction with his friend Peter Collier.

    Your timing is off. The bio of the Rockefellers came in the 70s. By 1985, Horowitz had been “mugged by reality” & become an ardent right-winger.

    I am not sure why grants from the Olin or Scaife foundation are tainted

    If you believe that advancing a right wing political agenda on campus is a good thing then the grants are not tainted. If you don’t…

    There is simply nothing on it which qualifies as academic research, and he works within no subdiscipline of political science.

    That’s utterly ridiculous. Are you a political scientist? By what divine wisdom do you get to make such determination. Are you making the ludicrous judgment that among this list there is no academic research and nothing that fits within the discipline of political science? If that is yr charge it is patently ridiculous:

    2007……..Subordinating Palestinian Rights to Israeli “Needs”: How Dennis Ross proved that Palestinians aborted the peace process (Washington: Institute for Palestine Studies), brochure.

    2007 Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict, third paperback edition (New York: Verso Press). This edition will contain a new introduction and two new chapters approximately 100 pages combined.

    2007 Beyond Chutzpah: On the misuse of anti-Semitism and the abuse of history,
    expanded paperback edition, forthcoming (Berkeley: University of California Press). This edition will include a new 70 page introduction and a new 50 page appendix.

    2006 “Subordinating Palestinian Rights to Israeli ‘Needs’: How Dennis Ross proved Palestinians aborted the peace process,” in Journal of Palestine Studies (accepted for publication August 2006).

    2005 Beyond Chutzpah: On the misuse of anti-Semitism and the abuse of history (Berkeley: University of California Press). This book was translated into seven foreign editions
    (Saudi Arabia/Arabic, Netherlands, Germany, Japan, Norway, Poland, Turkey).

    2003 The Holocaust Industry: Reflections on the Exploitation of Jewish Suffering, revised and expanded second edition (New York and London: Verso). This new edition contains a new introduction (7 pages), a new postscript (28 pages) and a new appendix (67 pages).

    2003 Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict, revised and expanded second edition (New York and London: Verso). This new edition contains a new introduction (27 pages plus endnotes), a new chapter (11 pages plus endnotes) and a new appendix (15 pages plus endnotes).

    2003 Tuer L’Espoir: Introduction au conflit Israelo-Palestinien (Brussels: Editions Aden)

    2000 The Holocaust Industry: Reflections on the Exploitation of Jewish Suffering
    (New York and London: Verso). This book was serialized in consecutive issues of The Guardian (London) and reached the top of the bestseller list in many countries. Four separate volumes collecting the various contributions to the “Finkelstein debate” were published in Germany. This book was translated into 24 foreign editions (Lebanon/Arabic, Brazil/Portuguese, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Korea, Lithuania, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey).

    1998 A Nation on Trial: The Goldhagen Thesis and Historical Truth (with Ruth Bettina Birn) (New York: Henry Holt). This book was translated into three foreign editions (France, Germany, Netherlands). The New York Times Sunday Book Review named A Nation on Trial a “notable book of 1998”.

    1996 The Rise and Fall of Palestine: A Personal Account of the Intifada Years (Minnesota: University of Minnesota). This book was translated into two foreign editions (Syria/Arabic, Germany).

    1995 Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict (New York and London: Verso). This book was translated into five foreign editions (Egypt/Arabic, France, Germany, Japan, Spain).

    1988 “Disinformation and the Palestine Question,” in Edward Said and Christopher Hitchens (eds), Blaming the Victims: Spurious Scholarship and the Palestinian Question (New
    York and London: Verso).

    1983 Translated from French The Future of Maoism by Samir Amin (New York: Monthly Review Press).

    pay particular attention to the remarks of the DePaul faculty member who commented both on the Vincentian ethos and the character of the political science department at DePaul

    Give me a friggin’ break–Vicentian ethos? What is that? Is DePaul attempting to be a liberal arts college or a Catholic seminary? If they want to be a Catholic seminary that’s fine. But they shouldn’t go around masquerading as something other than that.

    they had a responsibility to correct a blatant abuse of discretion on the part of the political science faculty.

    Ah, I see. When a college faculty approves tenure for someone you disapprove of that’s a “blatant abuse of discretion.” But when they approve of tenure for someone you DO approve of then that’s an entirely appropriate academic decision. Nice.

    That Finkelstein has no scholarly publications is a matter of public record.

    Now you’re just channeling Alan Dershowitz. How dreary, boring and mendacious.

    The internal deliberations within the provost’s head are not, your insistence that you apprehend his motives notwithstanding.

    I don’t know about you, but tenure decisions are usually explained in writing. I’m not used to the idea that the reasons for making a tenure decision can reside in the mind of someone who makes it & never appear in print. If that were so we’d have to be telepathic to understand why DePaul’s dean & president REALLY decided to deny tenure. But being mere mortals we’re forced to rely on what they wrote down on paper. YOu seem to imply that there were secret reasons they were not able or willing to divulge. What, pray were they?

    He was also a political partisan, long a member of the Palestine National Council, an auxilliary to the P.L.O., and had a long record of publication outside the scholarly realm.

    Edward Said is one of the most distinguished intellectuals of the 20th century. He is recognized for being a distinguished humanist, theorist, philosopher and critic. Only the churlish, right-wing and anti-Palestinian bloc smear him with the term ‘polemicist.’

    He resigned his position in the PNC & abandoned organized politics many years before his death. Besides, I didn’t realize that being a member of your nation’s parliament ipso facto made you a ‘polemicist.’ Or are you implying that all Palestinian legislators are polemicists? If so, is that the case of all of our members of Congress as well?

    He also fabricated salient aspects of his personal biography,

    Ah, dredging up more right-wing pro-Israel propaganda are we. How tiresome. Look, do me a favor. If you want a debating society go somewhere else. I’m not going to address all the smears & calumnies levelled against Norman Finkelstein, Nadia Abu El Haj or Edward Said. And I won’t tolerate them here. Here we deal in facts & fair minded debate over issues where the facts are in dispute. The bullcrap you’re peddling belongs at other sites where readers will swallow it. Because I won’t nor will my readers.

    Martin Kramer? Martin Kramer is a serious, objective source on Edward Said? Puh-leeze. Can’t you do better than that. And talk about polemicist. Kramer practically invented the word. Except that I’d add that he’s a pro-Israel right-wing intellectual propagandist, which is even worse.

    Did you do the content analysis yourself?

    I did the next best thing. I asked the author. Now, you can either believe her or disbelieve her which you will prob. do given your innate skepticism. If so, I invite you to buy her book and read her dissertation & do the content analysis yrself.

  • Scott MacEachern November 8, 2007, 10:03 AM

    To add a rather different perspective on Art Deco’s comments, I’m an archaeologist who teaches archaeology and anthropology in a SocAnthro department, with some experience in hiring in such departments as well as academic background on issues of genetics and anthropology. Were I looking at a file of this sort, I would see (a) someone who has taken a few years to get established in a tenure-track position – not at all an uncommon situation in anthropology; (b) a solid, award-winning book (the lies told about it over the last few months notwithstanding); (c) half a dozen articles in good journals, particularly American Ethnologist and ARA; and (d) evidence of a developing research agenda, in an area that is attracting a lot of attention within the discipline right now. I’m unclear about just why the ‘slimness’ of Dr. Abu el-Haj’s book is significant (I’ll note that _within the anthropological and archaeological community_ , it was well-received and -reviewed) and I must say that I’m not as dismissive of the articles she’s written as Art Deco is. I’ve heard a number of Dr. Abu el-Haj’s papers on genomics at various academic conferences now, and I would note that anthropological nobodies don’t generally get invited to write review articles in _Annual Review of Anthropology_.

    One issue that seems to concern Art Deco is the question of Dr. Abu el-Haj’s fieldwork. Again, I’m not sure what the problem is. There’s been a pretty well-recognised turn in the discipline of anthropology toward a diversity of fieldwork approaches over the last couple of decades. (This seems to have confused people commenting on _Facts in the ground_, as they assumed that she should have confined herself to doing archaeology _or_ ethnography _or_ archival work…. but that using informants to talk about an archaeological excavation was in some way a boundary violation.) Much of the anthropological work on genomics has involved using an anthropological perspective on the very abundant scientific and popular literatures that have been generated over the last few years, so I’m not sure that there is any a priori objection to sitting at a desk and cogitating. Would that we all did more of that…

    It would appear that Barnard, Columbia and outside reviewers saw something to Dr. Abu el-Haj’s work that Art Deco didn’t. There are two classes of explanations for that: (a) Art Deco missed something, perhaps because he/she didn’t have access to her tenure file or because he/she is biased against her personally or her research in general; or (b) Barnard and Columbia granted tenure for political reasons. I don’t see the evidence for the latter.

    For me, one of the most fascinating and disturbing elements in this controversy has been the patronization and sexism directed toward a junior, female Palestinian researcher who dares to write about archaeological practise in Israel. I’m perhaps being a little hard on Art Deco: after all, he/she merely said that Dr. Abu el-Haj has been ‘kicking around in academe’. He/she didn’t refer to her as ‘this baggage, or dismiss her work as that of a ‘young woman’ (the latter from the female head of a Womens’ Studies programme!), nor did he call her a ‘Christian dhimmi’. However, ‘kicking around in academe’ implies an aimlessness and insouciance that (a) is not warranted in this particular case and (b) dismisses the experiences of a lot of young academics looking for jobs. Have a little respect for the challenges of establishing an academic career these days, OK?

  • Gregory Starrett November 21, 2007, 6:36 PM

    Grumpy people often complain of the tenure process that it produces sinecures filled by the idle. They sometimes complain simultaneously that tenure standards aren’t strict enough. But if Harvard jettisons 80% of tenure applicants, how much stricter to they want standards to be? Is it possible that Columbia’s process is a free-for-all in which any slacker off the street can gain a comfortable perch to preach at the deservedly privileged students who have survived the university’s strict admissions policies?

    On the other side of the road are those who question the wisdom of the individuals applying even the strictest tenure policies. How could historian Paul Starr, for example, not have received tenure at Harvard for his book The Social Transformation of American Medicine, one of the most important contributions to American social history produced in a generation? There are lots of guesses–mostly having to do with the preening arrogance of Harvard history faculty and administrators generally–but no good answers.

    The frustrating thing about tenure decision-making for those outside the process is that–if done properly–it remains a close and secretive process regardless of the outcome. Each university, and each College within a university and each department within a college–has its own rules for tenure review that feed into the processes and rules of the next level up. At most universities, and particularly at the Ivies, the process is byzantine and as highly ritualized as the election of a new pope. This doesn’t mean that bad decisions aren’t sometimes made, but that when bad decisions are made, they’re made very deliberately and carefully. At Harvard, for example, there is a presumption that all tenure bids will fail. When one succeeds, it’s rather a surprise for all involved. At Yale, perhaps until recently, each tenure case was essentially the reopening of the faculty line involved. Outside referees would be asked whether or not the incumbent was the single top person in the field. If the answer was “no,” the applicant would have to go elsewhere.

    What tenure committee members will always say to outsiders fussing about the results one way or another, is “You haven’t seen the file.” It’s an excuse, of course, a defense, a claim of rightful authority. But it’s a claim of authority based on actually having seen the file, which–to give an example from my own university–contains at a minimum a curriculum vita, copies of all publications, a statement detailing one’s research accomplishments and plans, a teaching portfolio, peer and student evaluations of classroom performance, and, perhaps most significantly, several letters from scholars outside the university who have been provided with the candidate’s research material and been asked to evaluate the volume, the quality, the direction, and the promise of the applicant’s scholarship. These letters are taken extremely seriously by tenure committee members at all levels of administration. They are generally written by scholars at institutions considered by faculty and administrators to be “peers.” (Pity faculty at the Ivies, the only ones suitable to write for other Ivies; it’s like the tradition of sibling marriage in ancient Egypt; the only person prestigious enough to marry Pharaoh was his sister, a fellow deity!)

    These letters are normally solicited by academic departments based on two lists, one provided by the candidate and the other developed by his or her department colleagues. Normally a file has to contain letters from scholars on each of those lists, to represent a fair cross-section of people who know the candidate’s work well already, and people who may never have looked at the candidate’s work before, but be familiar with the general field of specialization and its cognates. There are usually strict rules about avoiding referees who are too close personally (friends) or professionally (those for whom the candidate is a professional patron). At some universities–Princeton, for example–one set of letters is solicited by the department, and an independent set of letters is solicited later in the process by the Dean of the Faculty, to ensure the independence of information provided to the university-level review committees. I go into this detail because the letters are considered to represent the national or even international scholarly community. They are meant to demonstrate to readers at upper levels of faculty and administrative review that the candidate’s appeal and accomplishments are more than a local concern.

    So, despite this reader’s complaints about the paucity of Nadia Abu El-Haj’s scholarship, it’s likely that the members of the numerous levels of review, both faculty and administrative, had plenty of information to go on, and were not overly concerned by “the numbers,” or rather, they felt the numbers were balanced by the quality, innovation, and promise of a young scholar’s work. I have not read Abu El-Haj’s genetics work, but I heard a geneticist say of her–this was more than a year before her tenure case even began–that she understands the technical literature in genetics, as well as the social dimensions of that literature, better than nearly any of the other cultural anthropologists working in the area of the anthropology of science. I have read her work on archaeology (and anyone who thinks Facts on the Ground is a “modest volume” has an odd definition of “modest”). What most of her critics don’t understand is that it’s not a book about ancient Israel. It’s a book about archaeology as a social practice. There’s quite a lot of good literature on the use of archaeology in the development of political ideology and nationalist movements in various parts of the world. What Abu El-Haj does, though, is something unique. She approaches archaeology from the perspective of science studies (historical, anthropological, sociological, and even philosophical scholarship on the nature and conduct of scientific research). She looks, for example, at how particular activities like excavations, archaeological tours, and so on, engage human interest and shape their understandings about what the past is, and how it counts. From the perspective of an anthropology of science, archaeological sites and artifacts in Israel (or anywhere else, for that matter), are analyzed as contemporary material culture. She is looking at how social processes are arranged to help living people attach particular kinds of meanings to the material created through excavation. This is new. It is fresh. It is different from what’s been done before on the social uses of archeaology. The research has been evaluated by Abu El-Haj’s peers in cultural anthropology and science studies–not just at Barnard or Columbia, but nationally and perhaps internationally–as well done, pathbreaking, and often brilliant. It is this accomplishment and the promise of more to come, and not necessarily the accountant’s-eye enumeration of the number of current publications–that was probably the most important element of Columbia’s decision. If others with longer CVs have been turned down, perhaps their own peers simply haven’t felt their work was quite as good.

    While some Biblical archaeologists may not like Abu El-Haj’s perspective, physicians often don’t like the perspectives or conclusions of medical anthropologists, either, and certainly many religious officials might disagree with the perspectives and conclusions of anthropologists of religion. That dislike or suspicion does not necessarily render those perspectives or conclusions false or useless. The self-appointed gatekeepers of academic propriety, like the disgruntled reader who complains here about the allegedly meagre results of Abu El-Haj’s years of “kicking about in academe”, should stop grumbling and get back to their own work.

  • elizabeth December 13, 2008, 9:30 AM

    She is not a Palestinian Arab. She is a born and raised American who attended Episcopal church. What utter bunk. Incendiary, incorrect. I can’t believe the academic world is involved in this slander!.