Middle East studies in the News
Pro-Palestinian Professor Sparks Controversy
by Javier C. Hernandez
Princeton University's decision to recruit a controversial Columbia University Middle Eastern studies professor is eliciting widespread complaints from students and alumni of the New Jersey university.
Rashid Khalidi, Edward Said professor of Arab studies at Columbia, is one of four candidates being considered for a position as chair in Contemporary Middle East Studies at Princeton.
Columbia has been criticized by some scholars for maintaining a faculty sympathetic to the Palestinian cause. Princeton, on the other hand, has long been labeled a haven for pro-Israel faculty.
Over the past weeks, Jewish students and alumni of Princeton have voiced concern over Khalidi's potential appointment to university administrators, according to The Daily Princetonian. Critics allege that Khalidi is a staunch supporter of the Palestinian cause, and fear that he would advocate his own political views in the classroom.
Princeton spokesman Eric R. Quiñones declined to comment on the controversy surrounding Khalidi, but said in an e-mail that the university views complaints "seriously."
"All faculty appointments are based on the quality of a candidate's scholarship, not his or her political views," he wrote.
Khalidi declined to comment for this article.
Khalidi has also been criticized for his ties to professors in Columbia's Middle East and Asian Languages and Cultures (MEALAC) department. In December, a committee at Columbia investigated allegations that MEALAC faculty members had intimidated students with pro-Palestinian comments at the university.
In a 24-page report released last month, the committee largely cleared the department of these charges, saying it could find only one instance in which a professor "exceeded commonly accepted bounds" of academic behavior.
MEALAC professor George Saliba, who was a subject of the Columbia investigation, said he thinks the complaints against Khalidi are part of a larger "campaign of silencing" that has spread across the country.
"Khalidi is being objected to purely for his political beliefs," he wrote.
Julie E. Taylor, an assistant professor in Princeton's Department of Near Eastern Studies, said that she thinks that Khalidi's appointment would add a much-needed senior contemporary Islamic scholar to the university's faculty.
"His work is becoming more contemporary and more political...but a lot of his foundational work is some of the best histories on Palestinians."
Taylor said she believes the search committee should not factor political beliefs into its decision-making process.
Khalidi specializes in the history of the modern Middle East and has written extensively about Palestine. He previously taught at the University of Chicago and graduated from Oxford University in 1974.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.
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