Middle East studies in the News
The Jihadnik Prof at UC-Santa Barbara [on professor Lisa Hajjar]
by Steven Plaut
Lisa Hajjar has made an entire academic career out of bashing the United States and Israel for their supposed use of "torture" against Arabs. She spouts off these baseless accusations from her academic home at the University of California at Santa Barbara (UCSB), where she teaches in its "Law and Society" program. In fact she has no credentials at all in law. (She also teaches "Middle East Studies" at UCSB, with even fewer qualifications in that field.) Instead she holds a PhD in sociology from American University. The one in Washington, not Cairo.
Hajjar is among the shrillest voices in the United States trying to chant the accusations over American "abuses of the human rights" of the al-Qaeda terrorists in Guantanamo Bay. She served on the pretentious "world tribunal," the one that found Saddam's Iraq innocent and the US guilty of war crimes and human rights abuses. Among the "tribunal's" objective findings were that "the occupation of Palestine, Afghanistan and all other colonized areas is illegal and should be brought to an end immediately."
Lisa Hajjar has written:
"There is no reason to doubt that torture has been systemic and pervasive, or that authorization can be traced up the chain of command, or that this has seriously damaged not only the immediate victims but also our national institutions and America's image abroad. Yet top officials in the Bush Administration are still doing what torturing regimes do: denying the facts and blaming "rogue" officers. Despite the abundant evidence of torture, Congress refuses to challenge these denial tactics in any meaningful way, for example by refusing to confirm for high office those responsible. What we desperately need is public acknowledgment that torture is always and everywhere a crime, and an official policy that reflects this conviction."
Hajjar has tried to define herself academically as a scholar having some expertise on the use of torture. She defines her aim as the debunking the false "popular belief that Western history constitutes a progressive move from more to less torture." The fact that she publishes her "findings" on web sites of the communist party raises questions about her credibility and objectivity. Hajjar gets her kicks out of issuing "warnings" about human rights abuses. She has spent her energies bemoaning the "torture" of the Iraqi Ba'athists being held in the Abu Ghraib prison.
Lisa Hajjar is apparently the daughter of a Finnish mother and a father of Syrian descent. She teaches in the "Law and Society Program" at the University of California at Santa Barbara, but she is in fact nothing more than a third-rate leftist sociologist. She has no training in law or legal studies, is not qualified as a Middle East scholar or researcher, and has extraordinarily few bona fide publications even in sociology. None of this prevented UCSB from granting her tenure as well as its "Pious Award" for her "research". She was among the UCSB faculty members opposing the war against Iraq and defending Saddam as part of "Not in Our Name".
Among the "scholarly articles" Hajjar lists on her vita are many propaganda screeds that she published, including those in the anti-Israel pro-terror "Middle East Report," for "In these Times", on the MERIP organization's web page, in the "Amnesty International" magazine, and a partisan defense of Palestinian mass murderer Marwan Barghouti. On her vita, besides the partisan propaganda we could find at most six articles she has published in refereed journals, hardly enough to get a faculty member tenure in any serious academic department.
Hajjar is author of a recently-published pseudo-scholarly book, Courting Conflict: The Israeli Military Court System in the West Bank and Gaza, a broadside assault against Israel's military courts, which often try Palestinian terrorists. Israeli civilian courts do not have jurisdiction in the West Bank and Gaza Strip for the simple reason that these areas are not formally annexed to Israel, although Palestinian terrorists convicted in military courts may appeal to Israel's Supreme Court. The book is less an analysis of the military courts than it is a partisan denunciation of Israel's presence in the "occupied territories" and an open endorsement of the rights of Palestinians to "resist" it, Hajjar's Newspeak term for mass murdering Jews. (Israelis arresting murdering terrorists would not qualify as "resistance by Jews" in the Hajjar book, of course.)
True, Israel itself has debated the circumstances under which "moderate physical pressure" could be applied to captured terrorists to force them to reveal information. But Israel is in a state of war and a fight for its very life against Arab fascism. Indeed years ago even this "moderate pressure" was prohibited by the Israeli court system. The main prisoner abuse of jailed Palestinians in Israel these days seems to be that some of their VCR's are really difficult to pre-program.
In fact, while prohibited in Israel, it is not clear at all why terrorists should NOT be tortured, this on purely ethical grounds. Be that as it may, while conceding that "a history of Israeli interrogation of Palestinians has never been written, and the conditions do not exist for such an undertaking," Hajjar is willing to take the word of the Bash-Israel lobby that Israel routinely uses torture against Palestinian prisoners. Among the primary sources cited by Hajjar to prove that Israel uses torture are screeds in Tikkun Magazine, the "Palestine Research Center" in Beirut, the late neonazi anti-Semite Israel Shahak, and other far-leftist propagandists. Hajjar's "book" has been lavishly praised by pro-terror Islamic fundamentalist web sites, and one of her screeds has been cited and praised by a neonazi web site.
Before coming to Santa Barbara, Hajjar taught "military law" at Swarthmore. There she engaged in partisan one-sided indoctrination in her classroom, as is revealed by the syllabi of her courses there. Her required reading list was a who's who of far leftists, communists, and haters of American and Israel. Among her proclamations at Swarthmore, was: "While the United States voices outrage about Saddam Hussein, it goes on tolerating human rights violations and other misdeeds by regional allies." Her "research" at Swarthmore consisted of little more than serving as a cheerleader for politicized "cause lawyers."
Hajjar has served as editorial assistant and writer at MERIP, a fanatically anti-Israel pro-terror "think tank" in Washington DC. She also is a member of the board of editors (alongside such "scholars" as Columbia University's Joseph Massad) of the pseudo-academic Journal of Palestine Studies, a partisan propaganda journal that features such "scholars" as the PLO chief. The Middle East Quarterly describes the Journal of Palestine Studies as a "PLO propaganda organ disguised as an academic journal; for example, it routinely refers to the creation of Israel as an-Nakba (‘catastrophe' in Arabic)." Orbis, Fall 1988, p. 637, describes the Institute of Palestine Studies, publisher of the Journal of Palestine Studies, as "an arm of the Palestine Liberation Organization." Stanford's Joel Beinin publishes his anti-Israel propaganda pieces there, as do the usual Israeli far-Left anti-Semites favoring the destruction of their own country. The "journal" makes little attempt to hide its political agenda.
Hajjar does not hide her support for Palestinian violence. She writes: "Because Palestinians are stateless and dispersed, their struggle for national rights has taken ‘unconventional' forms, including guerilla warfare. The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), which emerged in the 1960s to lead this struggle, has been castigated by Israel, and to a lesser extent the US, as nothing but a terrorist organization. This typifies the use of the terrorist label to non-states in their struggles against states.… Since most Palestinians have identified politically with the PLO, it was easy for the Israeli state to relate the repression of Palestinians to the imperatives of Jewish/Israeli national security. Generally speaking, everything connected to Palestinian nationalist activities and especially to the PLO was considered a security threat which (sic) could justify limitations and restrictions of rights."
Those "unconventional" Palestinian forms of protest happen to include blowing up buses full of school children and pregnant mothers.
Hajjar is a radical feminist, but one with little real interest in the position of women in the Arab world and with no concern at all over Israeli women being murdered by her beloved Palestinian terrorists. She has mentioned that in Morocco things are less equitable than at Vassar. She seems to believe that the main cause for Arab feminists should be destroying Israel. She is highly praised by Neve Gordon, a fanatic anti-Israel lecturer in political science at Ben Gurion University in Israel, someone who was arrested for serving as a "human shield" for Palestinian murderers, and someone who wrote a sycophantic piece about Holocaust Denier Norman Finkelstein, comparing Finkelstein ethically to the Prophets in the Bible. Gordon and Hajjar like to cite one another as authoritative sources for the claim that Israel uses torture against Arab prisoners. This is a bit like Ward Churchill and Noam Chomsky citing one another's works to prove how that America is more oppressive than Nazi Germany.
At least five of Hajjar's articles are featured on a PLO web site. Together with Steve Niva, a pro-terrorism far-leftist faculty member at Evergreen State College in Washington State (from which Rachel Corrie was dispatched to go commit suicide on behalf of Palestinian terrorism in Gaza) and a Counterpunch columnist, she is a sycophantic groupie of Edward Said and described his book as "a seminal event, causing lasting reverberations throughout the academy." Hajjar also writes for "The Nation", where she openly endorses nutty conspiracy theories.
She writes inter alia:
"While neoconservatism may help explain much about American military and foreign policy after 9/11, it doesn't account for the legal reasoning that set the conditions for the torture scandal. For that, we need to look to the Federalist Society, an organization established by right-wing lawyers in the early 1980s to redress ‘liberal bias' in American law schools and the legal profession. The thinking and influence of Federalist Society types who dominate legal positions (and judicial appointments) in the Bush Administration are laid bare in the torture memos, which document the triumph of international law-averse officials in the Justice Department, the Pentagon and the White House over dissenting voices in the State Department and sectors of the professional military."
She has tried to build much of her academic credentials upon her "research" concerning the uses of torture. She insists torture is used widely by both the US and Israel and her evidence for this is that some Arabs claim this is so, as do some far-left propagandists such as Kenneth Roth from "Human Rights Watch." In fact, HRW has been exposed by NGO-Monitor as constituting little more than an anti-Israel smear lobby and is hardly a credible source. Other "sources" for her claims concerning torture include the extremist anti-Israel leftist organization in Israel, Betselem, which denies that Israel has the right to defend itself against terrorism at all - other than by surrendering to terrorist demands, and which has been repeatedly caught lying. She teaches her views to hapless UCSB freshmen in a formal course about "torture." Hajjar regularly attacks Alan Dershowitz savagely for daring to suggest that under certain circumstances torturing terrorists might be justified. She compares American and Israeli officials to the nazis tried in Nuremberg.
Lisa Hajjar may be at her most dishonest when she is co-authoring political propaganda together with Stanford University professor of history Joel Beinin. In Alyssa A. Lappen's words, Beinin "denounces American ‘imperialism' on Al-Jazeera Television. A former Zionist, he refers to jihadist suicide bombers as ‘martyrs.' He praised Mideast scholars for ignoring the issue of terrorism, and he regularly repeats the most twisted and paranoid claims of Islamist regimes as though they were historical fact." Beinin used to be the ayatollah of the notoriously-biased "Middle East Studies Association," an anti-American and anti-Israel propaganda outfit disguised as an academic professional association. (Hajjar has chaired sessions at MESA events.) Beinin religiously churns out propaganda, with Hajjar is his regular sidekick. Indeed, Beinin proudly lists these propaganda screeds on his personal web page.
Beinin and Hajjar were among the professors signing a statement before the Allied invasion of Iraq, warning that Israel was planning to conduct genocidal atrocities against Arabs the moment the US troops landed in Mesopotamia. Well, Saddam was long ago toppled, with not even a smidgen of an atrocity was performed by Israel, while not even a whisper of an apology has come from either Beinin or Hajjar. Orwellistically, the two continue to collaborate in conferences devoted to "New History", which is to say – pseudo-history.
Hajjar is a co-author and collaborator with Beinin in a number of projects, including "Palestine, Israel and the Arab-Israeli Conflict: A Primer." It is widely reprinted, including on anti-Israel pro-terror web sites such as "From Occupied Palestine," and also on those that are fronts for the PLO.
The "Primer" is a rather typical example of getting just about everything possible wrong. It begins with the proclamation that religion plays no role in the Arab war against Israel and that it is all a "struggle over land". Now one of the few things unchallengeable about the Middle East conflict is that it has virtually nothing to do with land. Arab countries already control 6,145,389 square miles of land. That is almost twice the land area of the United States, which is 3,537,438 square miles, and about the same as the land area of Russia. Israel, even when including all of the "occupied territories" retained from 1967, controls less than 10,000 square miles. The West Bank and the Gaza Strip comprise about 2300 square miles (a bit less when deducting Jerusalem and its suburbs from the account), which is about half the size of the Everglades. Beinin and Hajjar want us to believe that with 6,145,389 square miles, the Arabs want war and genocide, but with 6,145,389 plus 2300 more, then they will want peace. If Israel only trades "land for peace" with the land-deprived Arabs, and never mind that its abandonment of the West Bank would leave an Israel ten miles wide and waiting for the Arab armies to annihilate, then all will be well.
Hajjar and Beinin want the world to believe that the entire Middle East war is due to the fact that those evil selfish Jews are unwilling to share their 10,000 square miles with the poor land-starved Arabs. But, in reality, the obvious true cause of the Middle East war is the fact that the Arab world is unwilling to allow the Jews to control even a sixth of one percent of the territory of the Middle East. The Arabs, controlling more land than any other ethnic group on the planet besides the Russians (most of whose land is frozen tundra), are simply unwilling to share even the tiniest sliver of the Middle East with the Jews.
In the "Primer" Beinin and Hajjar get most of the rest of their political history wrong as well. They claim that religious Zionism developed after the Six-Day War, whereas it developed in the nineteenth century. They claim that the Six Day War triggered messianic religiosity among Israelis, whereas the evidence suggests Israelis became more secularist after 1967 than they were before.
Beinin and Hajjar also reveal their biases by what they do NOT report, such as the mass immigration into "Palestine" of Arabs from neighboring countries starting in the late nineteenth century, and their counting of all Moslems, including Turks, as "Palestinian Arabs." They write, "In 1920 and 1921, clashes broke out between Arabs and Jews in which roughly equal numbers of both groups were killed." This makes it sound like Jews and Arabs were equally involved in murder. In fact, the Jewish dead were murdered by Arab pogromchiki whereas the Arab dead were rioters shot by British troops. When Arabs started mass-murdering Jews in 1929, Beinin and Hajjar blame the Jews, for raising a flag near the Wailing Wall.
They then write: "In 1921, the British divided this region in two: east of the Jordan River became the Emirate of Transjordan, to be ruled by Faysal's brother 'Abdullah,' and west of the Jordan River became the Palestine Mandate. This was the first time in modern history that Palestine became a unified political entity (emphasis added)." In fact, of course, it was clearly a division of Palestine into an Arab two-thirds and a remaining third earmarked for Jews.
The Beinin-Hajjar version of the creation of the "Palestinian" refugee problem is nothing more and nothing less than the Arab version. Those horrid Jews expelled the poor innocent Arab victims! In fact, the Arab refugees fled at the direction of their commanders and to escape the battle zones created when the Arab fascist states invaded Israel and tried to annex all the lands of Western Palestine. Beinin and Hajjar also repeat the now-discredited myth about how Arab civilians in Deir Yassin were "massacred" by Jews.
Beinin and Hajjar then recite the lies about supposed discrimination by Israel against Israeli Arabs: "But in many respects they were and remain second-class citizens, since Israel defines itself as the state of the Jewish people and Palestinians are non-Jews." France is a French state, Greece is a Greek state, England is an English state. Being in the minority is synonymous with being a second-class citizen in the "minds" of Beinin and Hajjar, but only in Israel. (If anything, Israel discriminates in FAVOR of its Arab citizens and against Jews!!) Not a word in their screed on the status of ethnic and religious minorities in the rest of the Middle East. They go on: "About 40 percent of their (Arab) lands were confiscated by the state and used for development projects that benefited Jews primarily or exclusively." I guess the Left-Coast Duo assume that Arabs do not use the roads, universities, hospitals and parks in Israel on public lands.
The Beinin-Hajjar account of supposed abuses of Arabs by Israel is as undocumented and baseless as it is unscholarly. They write, "Torture of Palestinian prisoners has been a common practice since at least 1971, and dozens of people have died in detention from abuse or neglect." Their evidence is that they think so. This is all complete falsehood and propaganda dressed up as "research". They add, "According to Israel, Palestinian terrorism includes all forms of opposition to the occupation (including non-violence)." According to Israel? According to Beinin and Hajjar, all forms of Arab atrocities against Jews are "protests against occupation", whereas no form of anti-terror operations by Israel could possibly be considered justifiable self-defense.
The Beinin-Hajjar take on the "Oslo Accords" is that "the PLO accepted this deeply flawed agreement with Israel because it was weak and had little diplomatic support in the Arab world." They have got to be kidding! Beinin and Hajjar do not think the Oslo Accords were "deeply flawed" because they produced 1700 Israelis murdered by the PLO after it foreswore all use of violence forever, but rather because they failed to deliver Israel's annihilation.
We now of course know that the PLO "accepted" the Oslo deal only in order to get control of the West Bank and Gaza and use them as terrorist bases to attack Israel. The PLO had no intention of abandoning terror and murder, nor its ambitions to seek Israel's annihilation. No mention at all from Beinin and Hajjar about how the PLO violated each and every clause in the Oslo Accord almost from the instant it was signed.
Beinin and Hajjar are at their most disengenuous and "revisionist", which is to say – dishonest, when they tell the saga of the failed "Camp David II" conference: "Although Barak offered a far more extensive Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank than any other Israeli leader had publicly considered, he insisted on maintaining Israeli sovereignty over East Jerusalem. This was unacceptable to the Palestinians and to most of the Muslim world." Actually, Barak there offered Arafat not only East Jerusalem but control of the Old City of Jerusalem as well, including its Jewish shrines. Arafat turned Barak down because the deal did not provide for the immediate annihilation of Israel (also known as the ‘right of return'), which is really the PLO's minimal demand.
Then there are the innuendoes and falsehoods by the Left-Coast Duo when it comes to recent years in the Middle East. They write: "The Israeli military response escalated dramatically after two soldiers, allegedly 'lost' in the PA-controlled West Bank town of Ramallah, were killed October 12 by a Palestinian mob returning from the funeral of an unarmed young man whom soldiers had shot dead the day before." Note how the use of the quote marks around the word "lost" and the absence of quotes around the word "unarmed" convey to the reader the totally-false impression that the two were involved in something nefarious. In fact, the two Jewish victims were innocents, who were tortured and murdered in cold blood, and then their bodies were mutilated.
Ultimately Hajjar lets her pseudo-scholarship and imagination fabricate the contents of her "research". She claims her own phone was tapped after the 9-11 attacks. Hajjar is convinced that torturing Arabs is ingrained in the American soul. She is as fond of whining about make-pretend "right-wing conspiracies" as is Hillary Clinton. Just before the toppling of Saddam, Hajjar endorsed warnings that "senior (US) officials could face prosecutions for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide if the war unfolds as reportedly planned," and claimed Bush was planning to nuke Iraq. This sociologist with no legal training at all insists she has the right to pass legal judgment upon the United States: "the Bush administration has articulated positions and pursued policies that blatantly contravene the Geneva Conventions."
We have no doubt that her Stanford sidekick Joel Beinin agrees.
 The Making of a Political Trial: The Marwan Barghouti Case. Middle East Report, no. 225 (Winter 2002).
 Alan Dershowitz, "Is It Necessary to Apply `Physical Pressure' to Terrorists--and to Lie about It?" Israel Law Review 23/2-3 (1989).
 Lisa Hajjar and Steve Niva, "(Re)Made in the USA: Middle East Studies in the Global Era," Middle East Report 7, no. 4 (October–December 1997), pp. 4–5.
 Efraim Karsh, "Were the Palestinians Expelled?" Commentary Magazine, July-August 2000 and Efraim Karsh, "The Palestinians and the ‘Right of Return,'" Commentary Magazine, May 2001.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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