Paula Stern and I have had some back and forth about the origins of her petition to deny tenure to Barnard anthropology professor Nadia Abu El-Haj. I wrote that I’d wager the campaign was orchestrated in some way by Campus Watch or Frontpagemagazine. It turns out I was likely right though I would’ve been more correct to use the word “inspired” than “orchestrated.”
Upon my prodding, Stern reveals the following about the origins of her petition:
How did my friend hear about the issue with Nadia Abu El Haj…getting closer here, folks. Her daughter is a student at Barnard and is in a related field. She had personal contact with El Haj, read her book, heard about the tenure process and went to her mother…who posted on an Israeli list…not sure why you have to put that in quotes (you might want to go back to college English courses because the quotes was misplaced).
Stern is referring to Diana Muir and her daughter, Avigail Applebaum, who wrote a scathing review of Facts on the Ground at the History News Network in May, 2006 without revealing that they were ideologically committed to opposing her tenure application and had been doing “opposition research” to discredit Abu El-Haj for months before the review was published. Muir’s posting to the Israeli listsev was also part of her campaign against the Barnard professor.
Applebaum-Muir began their research shortly after “Hugh Fitzgerald” (if that is indeed his name–but that’s a different story) wrote his scandalous Campus Watch-Frontpagemagazine article about Abu El-Haj (can you imagine an article attacking an academic which doesn’t quote a single word she wrote or said?) in October, 2005. It seems highly likely that Fitzgerald inspired this campaign since his was the first of the scathing attacks on the Barnard anthropologist. It is a shame that HNN was taken by Muir-Applebaum. [UPDATE: HNN’s editor has just written to me acknowledging his concern about the information I have discovered. He plans to update the website to reflect this. I thank him for his prompt and forthright reply.]
So, let’s ask Paula to go back to her friends and ask them how they first learned about Nadia Abu El-Haj. If it was from Hugh Fitzgerald will she eat her hat? [UPDATE: I have just learned that Diana Muir has acknowledged her interest in the Barnard professor originated with the Hugh Fitzgerald article. What I have yet to learn is whether Muir just happened to chance upon the article and took this up as her pet cause on her own or whether her obsession derived from closer coordination.]
And in a related matter, it appears that another highly negative review of Facts on the Ground was published in a serious academic publication without revealing that the author had a clear ideological affiliation that prevented him from writing an objective academic analysis. Scott MacEachern Professor of Anthropology at Bowdoin College writes to me:
The campaign against Dr. Abu El-Haj may have started somewhat before late 2005 [the date of Fitzgerald’s article mentioned above]…Central to Ms. Stern’s attacks are a highly negative review of Facts on the ground by Alexander H Joffe and published in the Journal of Near Eastern Studies 64(4): 297-304 [publication date October, 2005 though doubtless written some months before].
Dr. Joffe’s affiliation is listed [in the Journal] as ‘Purchase College, State University of New York’ – even though he had been appointed Director of Campus Watch a year beforehand. Dr. Joffe’s association with Campus Watch is not mentioned in any of the references to this review by Stern et al.
The extended, on-line version of Joffe’s negative review is available at Solomonia. It was posted less than a month after Campus Watch sent out a press release announcing Joffe’s replacement by Winfield Myers – and Joffe’s affiliation on that review is again simply ‘Purchase College’. There is not one indication…that Joffe had spent the previous 18 months (including the period when the JNES review was published) as Director of Campus Watch.
In other words, instead of a disinterested academic, when he wrote this book review Joffe was the director of a right-wing anti-Muslim political group that spearheaded the campaign to deny Abu El-Haj tenure. It appears that the Journal of Near Eastern Studies was also taken by the anti Abu El-Haj cabal. Is there anything aboveboard, honest and accurate in this entire campaign against Abu El-Haj??
For a carefully considered evaluation of the Abu El-Haj tenure flap by an Israeli Orthdox Jewish studies professor, read what Jerry Haber has to say on this subject at the Magnes Zionist.