TEL AVIV'S INFLUENCE ON AMERICAN INSTITUTIONS
Watch and tell
By JOEL BENIN
LEADING the charge against critical thinking about Islam and the Middle East in the US are Martin Kramer, Daniel Pipes, and Steven Emerson. Exploiting legitimate fears since 11 September 2001, their writings and speeches seek to impose an anti-Arab and anti-Muslim orthodoxy on Americans.
Shortly after 11 September 2001 Martin Kramer, former director of the Dayan Centre for Middle East Studies at Tel Aviv University, published a tract condemning the entire academic field of Middle East studies in North America (1).
Kramer alleges that the "mandarins" of the Middle East Studies Association of North America have imposed an intellectual and political orthodoxy inspired by Edward Said's Orientalism (2); moreover they failed to predict the attacks or warn the US public about the dangers of radical Islam. Kramer has not seen fit to criticise the FBI and the CIA, who are specifically charged with conducting intelligence and preventing crime.
Kramer also edits Middle East Quarterly, the house organ of the Middle East Forum, a neo-conservative thinktank directed by Daniel Pipes. Pipes has a long record of attempting to incite Americans against Arabs and Muslims. In 1990 he wrote: "Western European societies are unprepared for the massive immigration of brown-skinned peoples cooking strange foods and maintaining different standards of hygiene . . . All immigrants bring exotic customs and attitudes, but Muslim customs are more troublesome than most"(3).
One recent project of the Middle East Forum is Campus-Watch, a website designed to police dissent on university campuses. Its aim was to "monitor and gather information on professors who fan the flames of disinformation, incitement, and ignorance".
Campus-Watch (which has now been removed from the web due to criticism of its McCarthyite character) claimed that Middle East scholars "seem generally to dislike their own country and think even less of American allies abroad". The reason was that "Middle East studies in the US have become the preserve of Middle Eastern Arabs, who have brought their views with them".
President Bush recently nominated Pipes for a seat on the board of directors of the US Institute for Peace, a congressionally funded foundation established in 1984 "to promote the prevention, management, and peaceful resolution of international conflicts".
Steven Emerson is a journalist and film-maker. Since his 1994 documentary Jihad in America he has argued that the US is a base for thousands of Muslim terrorists. This charge is amplified in his recent book American Jihad: The Terrorists Living among Us.
On 11 September Emerson was proved partly right. But he has also been wildly wrong. Following the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995 and the crash of TWA flight 800 in 1996 he quickly claimed that Muslim terrorists were responsible for the events. He was wrong on both counts.
Read also : US: the pro-Sharon thinktank
(1) Martin Kramer, Ivory Towers on Sand: The Failure of Middle Eastern Studies in America, Washington Institute for Near East Policy, October 2001.
(2) Edward W Said, Orientalism, Pantheon Books, 1978, Penguin Books, 1991.
(3) National Review, 19 November 1990.
Original text in English
Original text in English
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