Middle East studies in the News
Useful Information [on Nadia Abu El-Haj, Pluto Press, the University of Michigan Press, et al.]
by Beshara Doumani
The open season on academic freedom started a bit early this year. You have probably heard about the terrible treatment of Norman Finkelstein: He was denied tenure for non-academic reasons (style over substance), was denied due process of a tenure decision review, and then denied the right to teach a terminal year! At the last minute and without warning, DePaul university president cancelled his classes and pulled out his assigned books from the bookstore. NF has since settled with DePaul. The terms are not public, but Finkelstein will no longer be teaching at that institution.
Nadia Abu El-Haj, an anthropologist up for tenure at Barnard College, Columbia, has come under attack by groups including some alumni that want the university to deny her tenure. It is amusing (and scary) that one of the leaders of the campaign made the argument that Abu El-Haj identifies herself as Palestinian. Since there is no such country, the self-identification is considered proof that Abu El-Haj is an academically unqualified and politically motivated person who calls for the destruction of Israel.
After yet another pressure campaign, the Chicago Council on Global Affairs cancelled a forum, scheduled for September 27, 2007, in which John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt, were to speak about their new book, The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy. So far, the two authors have greatly benefited from this attention.
Three recent issues:
1. The president of the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota cancelled a scheduled talk by Nobel prize winner and a key symbol of public morality, Archbishop Desmond Tuto, due to pressure on the university. He now joins former president Jimmy Carter and many other figures of moral and/or academic stature who have been labeled as anti-Semites for daring to speak about the unspeakable. An assault designed to make him radioactive and unwelcome on university campuses, if successful, means that no target is out of reach. I note with some concern that only a few of this country's intellectuals defended Carter's right to speak. Barring Tutu would further chip away at our freedoms. Fortunately, the president of the University of St. Thomas reversed himself yesterday and said that he made a mistake. Archbishop Tutu will be speaking after all.
2. ME anthropologists are being recruited to work for US military in Iraq. Those who accept the lucrative contracts may, if they do not live up to the ethics of the profession, endangering the whole field in much the same way as happened during Vietnam war. See following petition by Network of Concerned Anthropologists:
3. The University of Michigan, the US distributor of Pluto Press, suspended distribution of a book, Overcoming Zionism, by Joel Kovel and withdrew it from the market after coming under attack by a Zionist group called Stand With Us. When faced with a response that is even larger than the one that caused its panicked response in the first place, University of Michigan Press re-released the book but went on to threaten a worse offense than violating the academic freedom of an individual author: Punishing the smaller independent press (Pluto) that published the book. On October 19, UMP is scheduled to decide on whether to sever its relationship with Pluto.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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