Middle East studies in the News
Greatest Victory, Even in Defeat [on Nadia Abu El-Haj]
by Paula Stern
‘When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle." -- Edmund Burke
Nadia Abu El Haj, a controversial professor of Anthropology at Barnard College has been given tenure. This is a warning to Jewish students at Barnard and Columbia - you will now have one more professor to avoid, one more purveyor of hate in your ranks. Already the lowest forms of life are crawling out amid the ivy. A swastika was painted on a door of a Jewish professor at Columbia, a noose on the door of a black professor, more swastikas in other places - think you that there is no connection?
When a school opens its doors to a man such as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and when they hire people like El Haj and Massad, they invite hate to dine, to make its home in its once-hallowed halls. Too many waited too long, and El Haj's acceptance is the result. Let no one think this woman earned this honor - she did not. You need only read her book to see the poor level of her scholarship, the errors that are readily apparent. Even a small child in Israel can point out the errors in language and most high school students have a better understanding of archaeological practice here. But Barnard's administration under Judith Shapiro was not interested in facts, there remains the smell of something rotten just underneath the decision.
Shapiro conveniently withheld the fact that she was a professor of Anthropology at Bryn Mawr College while El Haj majored in Anthropology there. This is the same president who admitted to not having read all of El Haj's book, the same woman who is leaving Barnard much worse off than how she found it, lower in the esteem of its graduates for having lowered its standards for El Haj.
It was pretty much a foregone conclusion that El Haj would receive tenure, she is, after all, the darling of the Anthropology, where no less than 21 professors signed an anti-Israel boycott. No one honestly thought Shapiro would have enough courage to go against the department's recommendation. Some satisfaction can be gained from the latest rumor on campus that, at least, Joseph Massad was denied tenure, though his department will likely try to appeal. And thus...the dirty deal becomes reality, at Barnard's expense.
At a time when most people would wonder what legacy they leave behind, Shapiro can have little doubt that many will remember her for the seeds she planted long after she is gone from Barnard. These are the seeds of hatred and racism. Shapiro has helped lower the standards - mediocrity is now acceptable, if you are politically correct enough to hate Israel and brave enough to hide your political agenda in a bastardized book rather than your doctoral dissertation.
While at Columbia, I took an amazing class, the History of Zionism, with Rabbi Arthur Hertzberg. It was an enlightening class by a brilliant man. He put forth the idea that you should not fight a battle unless you know you can win. To lose, he told us, is to damage yourself more. Better not to fight at all.
I disagreed then, and I disagree now. You fight evil. You fight injustice. Even knowing you will likely lose - you fight it so that the next time, the fight will be easier and perhaps in the next battle, those who fought against evil will triumph.
Sometimes, the right is in the fight itself and not in the results. The victory goes to those who fought against her tenure because Barnard now knows it has damaged itself irreparably in the eyes of thousands of its graduates. At a recent gathering of Barnard graduates in Israel, some 90% of the women there signed a petition against El Haj's tenure. The visiting Dean of the College, Dorothy Denburg, was forced to offer a rambling explanation, but mostly, she just asked not to be held responsible for the decision. The oldest alumna there, Class of 1943, listened, and was livid. "I want nothing to do with Barnard. I'm finished with Barnard," she said to those around her, the anger so apparent. This woman has held on to letters and notes from sixty years ago, and when she went home that evening, she left the notes and the book on the table. She is finished with Barnard. It was sad, heartbreaking. This is Columbia's loss.
A petition with over 2,500 names proved that thousands thought the El Haj tenure was wrong decision. They will think twice before sending their children to Columbia, and certainly those yearly requests for money will go unanswered. This too is Columbia's loss. But more importantly, Columbia and Barnard have lost their respect.
At the same dinner, a young graduate approached me and spoke of her negative experiences taking a class with Joseph Massad and of the anti-Israel comments he slipped into the lectures. I urged her to tell Dean Denburg about what she experienced, but she refused. All it takes for evil to prevail, is for good men (and women) to be silent. Dean Denburg was silent.
The anti-Semites think they have won - and they are painting their glory across the campus with swastikas. This too is a sign that Columbia has lost its way.
The battle, some would thus argue, is lost. But I would say we were victorious. We won because we made tens of thousands of people aware that Barnard and Columbia had lost their place in the halls of respect. National and international newspapers have interviewed those who fought against the tenure.
El Haj will teach at Barnard, but Barnard's students will not learn about truth. They will not learn about the facts on the ground, because the ground under El Haj's world doesn't exist. Her dissertation consists of a poorly written diatribe, and her book, a bastardized version of the dissertation, has been further poisoned by intentional lies.
Though our hearts are heavy, victory goes to those who fought a good fight, a clean fight, an honest one. Victory goes to those of us who stood up against the odds and soon, when more of El Haj's racist attitudes on Jewish genetics become widely publicized, Barnard will lose even more respect and be ridiculed that much more.
Our victory will come in the next battle, when the Anthropology department or some other department attempts to bring yet another unqualified professor forward because of his or her political agenda. At that time, Barnard and Columbia students will have to choose: abandon the College/University completely or stand up and say, "Enough."
As for El Haj, let her be warned - the fight will continue to be waged. She can deny Israel's right to exist all that she wishes and attempt to rewrite Israel's history, but the study of archaeology continues and each day, as Israeli archaeologists dig, they uncover more and more proof of the facts on the ground El Haj wants to deny desperately.
Recently, Moslem authorities ordered a trench dug on the Temple Mount...and what did they find as they carelessly dug...remnants of OUR First Holy Temple. El Haj can lie all she wants...but the earth does not lie and from its depths comes the truth she is trying to deny.
And that truth, here in this land, is our greatest victory of all.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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