Middle East studies in the News
The Difference Between a Real Historian and Rashid Khalidi
Elder of Ziyon Blog
October 11, 2011
This post by Martin Kramer starkly shows the difference between how a real historian acts and how a propagandist poseur self-styled "historian" named Rashid Khalidi acts:
Last fall, Rashid Khalidi, the Edward Said Professor of Arab Studies at Columbia University, offered his audiences an account of how Leon Uris came to write the book. In a speech at Brooklyn Law School, Khalidi made this claim:
This carefully crafted propaganda was the work of seasoned professionals. People like someone you probably never heard of, a man named Edward Gottlieb, for example. He's one of the founders of the modern public relations industry. There are books about him as a great advertiser.
In order to sell the great Israeli state to the American public many, many decades ago, Gottlieb commissioned a successful, young novelist. A man who was a committed Zionist, a fellow with the name of Leon Uris. He funded him and sent him off to Israel to write a book. This book wasExodus: A Novel of Israel. Gottlieb's gambit succeeded brilliantly. Exodus sold as many copies as Gone With the Wind, which up to that point was the greatest best-seller in U.S. history. Exodus was as good a melodrama and sold just as many copies.
...Khalidi warned his Brooklyn audience that Gottlieb would be "someone you probably never heard of." Quite right: I regard myself as reasonably informed about the history of American Zionism, and I had never heard of Edward Gottlieb. Khalidi claimed there were "books about him as a great advertiser," so I did a search, but I couldn't find one. When Gottlieb died in 1998, at the age of 88, no major newspaper ran an obituary. That seemed to me a rather scant trail for "the father of the American iteration of Zionism" and "the founder of public relations in the United States."
One reason for the thin record, I discovered, is that Edward Gottlieb wasn't the founder or even one of the founders of American public relations....
Gottlieb is likewise completely absent from works on American Zionism—there isn't a single reference. Moreover, his name doesn't appear in the two scholarly studies of Leon Uris: Matt Silver's Our Exodus: Leon Uris and the Americanization of Israel's Founding Story and Ira Nadel's Leon Uris: Life of a Best Seller. I wrote to both scholars, asking them whether they had encountered the name of Edward Gottlieb in Uris's personal papers, housed at the University of Texas and cited extensively in both studies. Silver wrote back that "I didn't see anything about Edward Gottlieb" and Nadel answered that "I never came across G[ottlieb]'s name."
...Khalidi always presents himself as a historian, so I figured he wouldn't have concocted the Gottlieb story out of whole cloth. He must have had a source. As it happens, the Gottlieb claim figures in three books that are classics in the Israel-bashing canon.
...Charlotte Klein, who handled the Israel account for Gottlieb, was unequivocal: Gottlieb didn't commission Exodus, and the name of Leon Uris never came up in the Israel work of the firm.
In sum, the Gottlieb "commission" never happened. Uris's biographers dismiss it, Gottlieb's most knowledgeable associate denies it, and no documents in Uris's papers or Israeli archives testify to it. It originated as a boast by Gottlieb to another PR man, made almost thirty years after the (non-)fact. And given its origin, it's precisely the sort of story a serious professional historian would never repeat as fact without first vetting it (as I did).
Yet it persists in the echo chamber of anti-Israel literature, where it has been copied over and over. In Katheleen Christison's book, it finally appeared under the imprimatur of a university press (California). In Khalidi's lectures last fall, it acquired a baroque elaboration, in which Edward Gottlieb emerges as "the father of the American iteration of Zionism" and architect of "one of the greatest advertising triumphs of the twentieth century." What is the myth's appeal? Why is the truth about the genesis of Exodus so difficult to grasp? Why should Khalidi think the Gottlieb story is, in his coy phrase, "worth noting"?
Because if you believe in Zionist mind-control, you must always assume the existence of a secret mover who (as Khalidi said) "you probably never heard of," and who must be a professional expert in deception. This "seasoned" salesman conceives of Exodus as a "gambit" (Khalidi) or a "scheme" (Christison). There is no studio or publisher's advance, only a "commission," which qualifies the book as "propaganda"—an "advertising triumph." In Khalidi's Brooklyn Law School talk, he added that "the process of selling Israel didn't stop with Gottlieb…. It has continued unabated since then." It is Khalidi's purpose to cast Exodus, like the case for Israel itself, as a "carefully crafted" sales job by Madison Avenue mad men. Through their mediation, Israel has hoodwinked America.
In fact, the deception lies elsewhere. Exodus, novel and book, were universally understood to be works of fiction. In contrast, Rashid Khalidi claims to speak in the name of history—that is, carefully validated truth. "I'm a historian," he has said. "What I can do best for the reader or audience is provide a background for which to see the present, not tell them about the present." Again: "I'm a historian and I try not to speculate about the future." And this: "I'm a historian, and I look at the way idealism has tended to operate, and it's not a pretty picture." And this one (which truly beggars belief): "I'm a historian, it's not my job to attack or defend anybody."
Kramer is too modest to point out the obvious, so I will: Kramer, a real academic, has given us a perfect example of how historians should check facts. He went to extraordinary lengths to check out a story, and even when it seemed that he had the answer he went the extra mile to double- and triple-check his facts. He went to archives, emailed people who would know and interviewed relevant actors who are still alive.
Khalidi, on the other hand, is a propagandist who pretends to be a historian. He does no original research, merely shuffling pieces of information he finds that conforms to his worldview and discarding that which doesn't. I have exposed some of his recent lies
and I went into some detail on his dishonesty in my book review of his work The Iron Cage (parts
It is worth reading the entire lengthy Kramer article just to appreciate the painstaking work that real historians and academics do to check facts - and to see, in contrast, how lazy and dishonest the Khalidis of the world are.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.
receive the latest by email: subscribe to campus watch's free mailing list