Middle East studies in the News
Peeling Columbia's Middle East Mask
by Jerry Gordon and Alyssa A. Lappen
An anti-American geyser erupted December 5 at a daylong Columbia University conference, entitled "US Imperialism in the 21st Century." The university's Center for Comparative Literature and Society co-sponsored the event with its controversial Middle East and Asian Languages and Cultures program to honor MEALC founder, the late polemicist Edward Said. It filled the Teatro at Casa Italiana to capacity, apparently through email notices sent "entre nous" to like-minded students and faculty.
The event—chaired by newly tenured MEALC professor and former Palestine National Committee negotiator Rashid Khalidi—capped a period specially marking the university's intellectual decline. Fresh from the University of Chicago, Khalidi filled the $4 million, anonymously endowed Edward Said chair to advance Palestinian and Arab causes at Columbia, and appear frequently on PBS and NPR.
Neither Columbia nor the taxpayer-funded TV and radio networks publicize Khalidi's reverence for the memory of mass murderers like Black September terrorist Abu Iyad  or his support for violence: Palestinian society "comes through during these uprisings," he said in October 2000. "It is civil society that carried the first uprising." 
On December 5, MEALC's targets were U.S. global imperialism and Israel's Second Intifada—what London University Middle East analyst Ephraim Karsh more aptly calls "Arafat's War." The U.S. global war on terror seeks to defeat the state and Islamic terror sponsors that perpetrated and facilitated the September 11th attacks. Israel seeks to defeat a terrorist infrastructure that over the last three years is responsible for more than 20,000 suicide and other attacks that maimed or killed nearly 7,000 Israeli civilians.
Two afternoon and evening panels presented uniform, monochrome anti-imperialist, anti-American and anti-Israel scripts. MEALC's Akeel Bilgrami, for example, urged moderate Muslims to turn (like him) to vocal criticism of the U.S. Speakers praised the potential of the Internet to "spread the word" and make it "much harder for the Imperialists (Bush et al) to lie and hide things from us."
What do they consider the "truth?" Speakers claimed that:
* The US, and particularly the Bush administration, are hegemonic, imperialist aggressors. The Bush "regime" does not bully other countries, but reshapes them to be totally dependent on the U.S.
* The US has been baiting the Islamic world to enrage Muslims and transform Western Europe.
* The Bush administration has successfully divided Western and Eastern Europe.
* The Bush administration espouses a grand hegemonic strategy in which the Middle East is central.
* Yasser Arafat is "one of the most legitimate leaders in Palestine." This is why the U.S. government targets him (says Sorbonne University of Paris professor Gilbert Achcar).
* The Bush administration aims to tighten its hegemony and seeks the vassalage of other countries and of the people in the U.S.
* Israel is an occupier and oppressor, working with the US.
* The U.S. and Israel "viewed 9-11 as a good thing" that justified further oppression of Palestinians, a ramped up Global war on Terror and conquest of Iraq.
* The Palestinian Authority "militants" and Iraqi and Afghan "guerrillas" commit armed "resistance" and terrorism due to intense forces of oppression and occupation imposed by the U.S. and Israel.
* The Bush regime wields great influence over faith-based Christians, who want him involved in foreign affairs.
* Straussians alias Neo-conservatives run right-wing U.S. think tanks and the pro-Israel U.S. Defense Department.
* Bush did not anticipate "getting blowback" from Iraq, local guerrillas and international "freedom fighters."
* At the core of the Bush administration policy is an overt embrace of armed preemption in Iraq, within the Arab Muslim heartland, according to Professor Khalidi.
* The Bush "imperialist occupation" of Afghanistan and Iraq exceed the efforts of any prior U.S. administration to establish a "new security paradigm," announced in September 2001 and promoted internally among Defense Department Neo-conservatives.
* Iraq was not connected to the attack on the World Trade Center.
* The U.S. intentionally exaggerates the savagery of Saddam Hussein against Iraqi people and others in the region.
* The US "obstructs democracy" in the name of democracy and the Bush administration operates in Orwellian fashion.
* The depiction of Islamic beliefs by Muslim apostate, author and playwright Salman Rushdie (lionized at a spring Columbia festival that produced "Midnight's Children) is inaccurate and irreverent.
* Al-Jeezera—the 24/7, Qatar-based Arabic language satellite TV propaganda network—portrays the truth concerning the Middle East and Gulf region to the Arab/Muslim "street."
From comments at the Teatro, many seemingly intelligent people subscribe completely to the potentially toxic anti-American, anti-"imperialist," anti-global, notions, all of which also carry Middle East Arab and Muslim hatred of the modernizing West, the U.S.—and of course "its ally and regional colonial power," the Jewish state of Israel.
Last year and this, several other MEALC events roiled Columbia's campus, all supported by Dean Lisa Anderson. In September 2002, the School of International and Public Affairs co-sponsored an African Studies Institute seminar—"South African Conversation on Israel and Palestine." Its Chair, Professor Mahmood Mamdani, attempted to glue a false apartheid analogy to Israel's counter terror tactics. Lately, U.S. coalition forces have lately adopted Israeli techniques—including checkpoints, curfews and "virtual cantonments"— to contain Ba'athist guerrillas in Iraq. Aiding him was radical leftist Jeff Halper, whose Israel Committee Against Housing Destruction (ICAHD) claimed that destroying the homes of Palestinian terrorists in the disputed territories was only a mendacious "displacement" of Palestinians. MEALC anthropologist Nadia Abu El-Haj and political science professor Andre du Toit, visiting from the University of Cape Town, concurred.
Only one participant objected. Wasn't "displacement" of more than 900,000 Mizrahi and Mahgrebi Jews before and after the Israeli War of Independence analogous? Arab pogroms targeted Jewish people and confiscated billions of dollars in Jewish assets and property. Mamdani's panel declared the question intellectually dishonest, and Jewish and Palestinian displacements incomparable. When the program ended, a participant approached the questioner. "You are a Zionist racist pig," he said. Sic Gloria transit mundi, Columbia.
In fall 2002, MEALC also sponsored a Palestinian film weekend featuring "Jenin, Jenin." This blatant propaganda intercuts supposed "eyewitness" accounts with haunting imagery suggesting that the IDF committed a "massacre" in the refugee camp. The film ignores the United Nations conclusion, following a controversial investigation that in fact that no such massacre had occurred. "Jenin, Jenin" contrasts sharply with the fact Jenin terrorists murdered 23 IDF soldiers as they methodically tried to dismantle and defuse bomb factories and arms without accosting innocent Palestinian civilians.
Recent Harvard Divinity School graduate Rachel Fish single-handedly shut down the United Arab Emirates' Zayed Center, whose academic program advanced Holocaust-denial, anti-American conspiracy theories, and anti-Semitic hatred in its "research" and lectures. Yet at Columbia, terrorist sympathizer Professor Khalidi and his conference panelists issue material in the same under the aegis of an anonymously funded Edward Said bully pulpit and no one rebuts their calls to implement "resistance against Imperialism," build a U.S. "anti-imperialist movement," "protest power" and "disrupt and tame U.S. hegemony."
Monitoring such events can prove extremely uncomfortable. Those who ask probing questions invite hoots, verbal assaults, psychological intimidation and possibly even violence. The sponsors do not want intruders in "their forums," so to speak. Yet exposure is the most important weapon we have.
Americans should take heed. Overseas, the purveyors of radical Islam mass manufacture hate ideology to suppress their masses. By feeding their people a diet of revulsion for Western ideas, tyrants and murderers have successfully squelched democracy, equality, liberty and economic progress.
Now, proponents of radical Islam are importing the same ideologies into the U.S. and onto American campuses.
Undoubtedly, the most damaging aspect of such anti-Americanism is the ease with which it hides inhumanities perpetrated under the banner of Jihad and—in conquered societies—attendant Dhimmitude, institutional Islamic debasement of non-Muslim minorities.
Columbia trustees should, of course, demand that academics return to the honest and free exchange of competing ideas. Their failure creates a vacuum that invites other Columbia stakeholders—press, public, parents, alumni, and government funding officials—to supply the necessary disinfectant.
 Khalidi, Rashid, Under Siege: PLO Decision making During the 1982 War (1985); pp. ix and 103; see also Middle East Report, March-Apr. 1991.
Jerry Gordon is a Columbia University Graduate School of Business alumnus and activist in Jewish and anti-Dhimmitude causes. Alyssa A. Lappen is a journalist, essayist, editor and poet.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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