Middle East studies in the News
Nadia Abu El Haj and ‘Pure Political Fabrication'
by Ralph Harrington
Of all the controversial passages in Nadia Abu El Haj's Facts on the Ground, few have been so chewed over and have provided such fuel for polarized debate as this one, from her chapter 9, ‘Archaeology and its aftermath', page 250:
The text as given above is precisely as it appears in the book,* complete with footnote numerals, italics, brackets, and typographical error (that full stop after the bracketed phrase ending ‘contemporary political claims' should be inside the closing bracket).
Most of the attention this paragraph has received has focused upon the phrase, or rather fragment, ‘pure political fabrication'. Critics of Nadia Abu El Haj have taken the words as indicating that the author is arguing that that 'the modern Jewish/Israeli belief in ancient Israelite origins' is a 'pure political fabrication', sometimes reproducing the author's original emphasis, sometimes not (here are some examples). In response to these charges, others have argued that the words ‘pure political fabrication' have been taken out of context and misinterpreted, and that Nadia Abu El Haj is saying precisely the opposite, that Israel's ancient history is not a pure political fabrication (examples here).
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