Middle East studies in the News
Barnard Gives Tenure to Denier of Jewish History [on Nadia Abu El-Haj]
by Gil Ronen
Barnard, a liberal arts college for women in New York City, has granted tenured status to Nadia el-Haj, an Arab anthropologist who has denied the Jewish people have their national roots in the Land of Israel and has justified the murderous destruction of Joseph's Tomb in Shechem in the 2000 Terror War.
The college's intention to grant Abu el-Haj tenure gave rise to loud protests by intellectuals and pundits in the past year. Paula Stern, a Barnard alumnus who lives in Israel, initiated an online petition against giving Abu el-Haj tenure, which has been signed by almost 2,600 people, most of them Barnard alumni. Despite the outcry, Barnard announced Abu el-Haj would be granted her tenure in a statement given this week.
Although the petition she sponsored ultimately failed, Stern told Yishai Fleisher of Israel National Radio that she saw a victory in this defeat. Stern said the decision to grant Abu el-Haj tenure was apparently part of an internal political deal in which Columbia University, with which Barnard is affiliated, will deny tenure to a well known anti-Israeli intellectual, Joseph Massad. In addition, she told Fleisher, it will now be "that much harder" for Columbia to accept blatantly biased people like Abu el-Haj into its teaching staff.
In her only book to date, "Facts on the Ground: Archaeological Practice and Territorial Self-Fashioning in Israeli Society," Abu el-Haj wrote about Israelis' attitude towards archaeology (although she apparently speaks little or no Hebrew), and claimed that "what was considered to have been ancient Jewish national existence and sovereignty in their homeland" is "a tale best understood as the modern nation's origin myth… transported into the realm of history." The Hasmonean and Davidic dynasties are, she contended, a mere "belief," an "ideological assertion," a "pure political fabrication."
She also called the destruction of Joseph's Tomb an act of "resistance" by oppressed Arabs which "needs to be understood in relation to a colonial national history." At the same time, she bemoaned what she claimed was Israeli archeologists' practice of using bulldozers to dig through layers dating from periods of non-Jewish rule. According to Stern, she quoted no Hebrew scholarly works in her book, and no Israeli experts.
Her book was derided by experts writing in professional publications as "flimsy and supercilious," " the result of faulty and ideologically motivated research," and "misleading."
The Democracy Project, a conservative website, denounced her as "an academic impostor who passes off a political agenda demonizing the State of Israel and its legitimate historic roots."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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