People claiming to be Barnard-Columbia alumni have sunk to a new low in their campaign to deny Nadia Abu El Haj tenure. Last month, they created a website attacking Abu El Haj and urging people to sign Paula Stern’s scurrilous petition. Nothing new in people creating websites attacking others. But what is especially pernicious about this website (whose existence was reported to me by an indignant reader) is that its URL essentially appropriates Abu El Haj’s own name: nadiaabuelhaj.com. I find this shocking and my reader had this to say:
How ethical is it to take someone’s actual name and use it as the domain for a website attacking them? This strikes me as disgusting, verging on personal violation.
I think this site is a disgraceful, shabby exercise in cowardly intellectual terrorism.
“Intellectual terrorism.” I like the phrase. Sorry I didn’t think of it myself.
But stealing Abu El Haj’s name is par for the course for the campaigners against her. They have fabricated quotations from her work, mischaracterized her arguments and lied about her through their teeth. What would stop them from stealing their enemy’s own name to do a hatchet job on her? They probably think it’s a terribly clever thing to do.
The second most sleazy thing about this site is its complete anonymity. Again hear my reader:
Who is behind it? No names, affiliations or backgrounds are given. How can they be contacted? There is no e-mail or other address for this ‘campaign’.
Here is what the site owners say about themselves:
We are a committee of Barnard and Columbia graduates who have never stopped caring about our alma mater.
But don’t ask how to contact them because you can’t as my reader wrote. So why the secretiveness? What are these people afraid of? If they are a committee why can’t they name themselves? If there’s is a public campaign why are they incommunicado?
The third most sleazy thing they do is feature at their site in their entirety copyrighted articles written by authors from whom they have largely not received permission to reproduce their content. I could find only one article which specifically states they have the author’s permission to republish. I have written to several of the other authors making them aware that their material is featured at this site and asking whether they approved publication at a site which advocates denying Abu El Haj tenure. Have these people agreed, in effect, to lend their names to this campaign? Are these authors aware of the unsavory tactics of both this site and the entire anti-tenure campaign?
For example, does Sondra Rubenstein know that this site has appropriated her work and featured it under the banner “Deny Nadia Abu El Haj Tenure?” Does Ralph Harrington know they have done the same to him? I find it laughable that the website has a copyright notice when they so flagrantly flaunt copyright in appropriating the material of others. Do all the scholars quoted know they their words have been used to serve the machinations of an anonymous committee in its holy war against Abu El Haj?
No doubt, owners of the anti-Abu El Haj site may read this and alter their site accordingly. Personally, I hope they don’t. But I want others to see the site as it is now to confirm what I write here.
If this is all that the anti-Abu El Haj forces can muster then they are indeed a morally and intellectually discredited lot. They only make it that much easier for Columbia to finally approve Abu El Haj’s tenure application by their antics.
Dr. Sondra Rubenstein says
Dear Mr. Silverstein,
It seems that you are quick to assume, and slow to check out, the details. In fact, I was contacted by the webmaster of the http://www.nadiaabuelhaj.com website and gave my approval for them to reprint my article there.
I am horrified that Columbia, my alma mater, would even consider giving tenure to someone guilty of such sloppy work. As I wrote in my article, “The politicization of archaeology is nothing new. What is new in Facts on the Ground, is the length to which author Nadia Abu El-Haj of the Columbia University Anthology faculty has gone to ignore, distort, revise, imply and assert the inaccuracy of historical fact. Her political motive is to deconstruct the legitimacy of the State of Israel.”
You are quick to assume, quick to judge, quick to ridicule…but incredibly slow, apparently, in doing your research. I believe that Abu El-Haj attempted to “steal” the history of Israel by denial…and you are attempting to deny her incompetence by accusing others of “stealing” articles. Judging by how I was treated, I can only assume the website owners were as careful with others as they were with my article. How sad that Abu El-Haj can’t claim the same.
Richard Silverstein says
You’d be wrong, Professor. Dead wrong. I only wrote to two individuals whose material is at the site & one of them is pissed as hell that his material was appropriated w/o his permission. You might want to retract this portion of yr comment. And even after Dr. Harrington’s announcement that he disapproved of his material being featured there it’s still at the site. Are you in favor of copyright violation? If not, you might want to contact yr colleagues at the site & ask them to clean up their act.
Comments like this say far more about yr knee jerk defensiveness about any criticism of Israel whatsoever. And they say hardly anything at all about Abu El Haj’s work–& certainly nothing useful or accurate.
Gee whiz. You reproduced an ENTIRE article from Haaretz in the previous post. Have you no sense of irony? Did you get their permisiion? You may want to review the rules at Haaretz. Go to their home page and at the bottom there is a link called “site rules.” If you haven’t gotten their permission you can do so at firstname.lastname@example.org. Notice, you need permission from Haaretz not Gideon Levi IMO. If you got their permission but just forgot to mention it, my apologies.
Richard Silverstein says
I would think you would understand the difference between my quotation of the Levy article and the anti-Abu El Haj’s exploitation of Harrington’s review on behalf of their campaign against her.
Furthermore, no newspaper or magazine from which I’ve quoted here has ever complained about breach of copyright. You are welcome to contact Haaretz to ask them whether they object to my use of their material here. I will remove any material they object to. Though I point out to you and any media copyright holder that might object that my links drive traffic to their site which in turn helps their website’s economic model. Should they wish to deny bloggers the right to quote their material, it might be counterproductive to their media enterprise and the free exchange of information on the internet.
If you want to use material from Haaretz then you should read THEIR site rules. YOUR site rules are irrelevant. The anti Abu el Haj site (with which i have no connection) replaced the reproduction of Dr. Harrington’s work on their site with a link to his site a long time ago. Providing a link to someone elses site is certainly legitimate.
Richard Silverstein says
That’s simply not true. It was only removed (UPDATE: Dr. Harrington notifies me that his article continues to be posted at the site) after I wrote my post noting his objection & my post was not written “a long time ago,” davke l’hefech. And he objects to them linking to it as well, though their doing so isn’t a copyright violation.
You’re being entirely disingenuous in yr criticism of my treatment of Haaretz material. If it were any other site but my own & you were not having a dispute w. me you wouldn’t give it half a thought. And if you really care about the issue I again invite you to ask the editors to review my site to determine whether they object to my use of their site. In fact, I think I’ll write to the editor & ask what their policy about blogging is. I do wish you’d stop yr huffing & puffing about copyright…it’s so transparent. You’ve been commenting here for ages. Did it start bothering you all of a sudden?
I just think it’s ironic.
Richard Silverstein says
Amir: No less than Ralph Harrington himself just wrote to me to tell me that his article is still posted at the anti-Abu El Haj website. And I’ve confirmed this. You shouldn’t be so quick to assume you are right and I am wrong in such matters. The owner of the site merely changed a single link at the site to Harrington’s article so that it now links to Harrington’s site. But the owner neglected to remove the Harrington article itself fr. their site so the copyright violation continues unabated.
Yes you are correct. They switched it from one link, but left it at the other. I’m going to stop “huffing and puffing now.” Apparently I didn’t make my point clear. It was not my intention to defend the anti Abu el-Haj site or to condemn you for using material from Haaretz but merely to point out the irony that you hold others to a standard that you yourself don’t adhere to. I won’t be making any more comments on this subject.
Dear Mr. Silverstein, thank your for putting your attention to this situation. Wars between peoples always involve disagreements over history, over ‘heritage,’ real, claimed, and invented. This whole case just goes to show us that ideas matter. As one not personally implicated in the Israel-Palestine conflict, the problem I have with Sondra Rubenstein’s position (which I take to be articulated in her book review Denial of Heritage) is this. Dr. Rubenstein criticizes Dr. Abu el-Haj for shoddy scholarship but mostly for sins of omission. According to Dr. Rubenstein, Abu el-Haj purposefully neglects the overall history, in which there have been episodes of Hebrew place names being overwritten by Arab ones, many of which survive into the present day. And that there have been episodes of irresponsible clearance of artifact-rich sites on the part of Arabs, also. Basically, she spends much of the article saying, Well, the Arabs did all that same stuff, too, rather than actually rebut the scholarly findings of Dr. Abu el-Haj. And in Dr. Rubenstein’s playbook, that makes Dr. Abu el-Haj a clear partisan whose scholarship is not to be trusted, much less anointed with the prestigious and generous support of tenured professorship. Okay, fine. But if those sins of omission are the indicator of politicization on the part of Dr. Abu el-Haj, then what does Dr. Rubenstein’s reported residence in an Israeli settlement suggest about her political motives? If both sides have been guilty of displacing each other over the centuries, if both sides bear the same wounds, the same traumatic memories, and the same shame, would not the wise and peace-loving thing to do be to cease the displacements going on right now? I can only guess that Dr. Rubenstein does not think so.
I don’t know enough about El-Haj’s book to defend or attack it. Nor do I know enough about her tenure qualifications to argue she should or should not be denied tenure.
But the fact that her attackers would be so sleazy as to hide their names and attack her anonymously makes me sympathetic to El-Haj just on fairness grounds alone. The cowardly people who created that site even hide their registration of the domain name from WHOIS records. It’s an ugly, ugly thing to see, and reminds me of the anonymous notes left on my grandmother’s door by “neighbors and concerned citizens” in the 1930’s in Germany who wanted my bubbe to move to another neighborhood.
Actually, knowing that President Shapiro counted Nadia Abu el Haj among her students at Bryn Mawr and has shepherded her appointment at Barnard and now her tenure consideration is very relevant to understanding why this case did not just die years ago.
Richard Silverstein says
I’ve never heard of any university president “shepherding” any tenure appointment and it would be HIGHLY inappropriate to do so. If you have any real evidence that she has done anything out of the ordinary involving this case including showing undue favoritism toward Abu El Haj you should make it known instead of making unsubstantiated charges.