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The Middle East Studies Mess

The chaos gripping the Middle East today stems in no small part from the terrible scholarship of the Middle East studies establishment. So says Michael Rubin, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, in an essay commissioned by Campus Watch and sponsored by the Middle East Forum. It appears in the July 2015 issue of the Australia/Israel Review.

The Middle East is in chaos. After four years of Syrian civil war, there are now more refugees and displaced persons seeking to escape violence than at any point since World War II. Libya and Yemen are in chaos. The Islamic State has both revived medieval notions of the caliphate and returned such practices as slavery, beheadings, and crucifixions to the headlines. Turkey, once celebrated both as a bridge between East and West and more recently as proof of the compatibility of political Islam and democracy, slides down the path to Islamist autocracy.

To read the rest of this essay, please click here.

By Winfield Myers  |  July 2, 2015 at 12:58 pm  |  Permalink

Mark LeVine's Internet Rants Continue

Mark LeVine

As if to drive home the point CW made recently in the quote-filled article "Bonfire of the Vulgarians: Middle East Studies in Decline," UC Irvine history professor Mark LeVine—whose profanity-laden Facebook call to "dismantle" Israel featured prominently in our round-up—has accompanied a new post on his Facebook page with this brilliant analysis: "F— the occupation. 50 years is enough."

Elsewhere, LeVine, who can't stop posting ill-advised, unedited commentary anywhere and everywhere on the Internet, left a rambling, op-ed length comment for a Jewish Journal op-ed on whether or not the University of California Board of Regents should adopt the U.S. State Department's definition of anti-Semitism. LeVine was not placated by the author's reticence on the matter and concludes his rant with the type of eliminationist rhetoric—couched in platitudes about "Judaism," "human rights," and "democracy"—for which he's become known:

[T]he vast majority of supporters of BDS [Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions], including the rapidly growing number of Jewish and Israeli supporters, oppose not merely Israeli policy but the Isareli [sic] state as its [sic] presently conceived of and acts--as an ethnocratic, exclusivist state built upon decades of occupation and no willingness to relinquish these claims.

I want to "undo the events of 1948," but not because I hate Israel or am anti-Semitic. Rather, it's because I stay true to the Prophetic Judaism that has always been the core of my identity and the ideals of human rights and democracy for all that they demand. There are many alternatives to the present Israeli political system--confederation, parallel states, binationalism. Advocating for them, and even for the end of a Zionist state cannot be equated with anti-Semitism.

We'll leave it to LeVine to decide if his single-minded obsession with the world's sole Jewish state or his tunnel vision regarding alleged human rights abuses constitutes anti-Semitism. But one thing's for sure: he needs to get help with impulse control vis-à-vis the Internet. Online anger management counselors are standing by. . . .

By Cinnamon Stillwell  |  June 27, 2015 at 3:11 pm  |  Permalink

Bonfire of the Vulgarians: Middle East Studies in Decline

Earlier this year, a firestorm erupted when Connecticut College philosophy professor Andrew Pessin's 2014 Facebook comments, in which he compared Hamas in Gaza to a "wild pit bull . . . chained in a cage, regularly making mass efforts to escape," were deemed "racist" and "dehumanizing" by student activists, colleagues, and administrators alike. Meanwhile, Middle East studies academics regularly emit commentary that is unambiguous in its bigotry, tastelessness, and vulgarity, to nary a peep. Not coincidentally, the vitriol is directed at targets academe finds politically unpopular: Israel, pro-Israel Jews, and anti-Islamists. In the latest Campus Watch research, appearing today at American Thinker, CW West Coast representative Cinnamon Stillwell take a look at the worst of the worst:

A glaring example occurred in late 2014, when UC Irvine history professor Mark LeVine posted an expletive-laden, unhinged rant on Facebook calling for the destruction of Israel. . . . In this age of selective campus hypersensitivity, it's difficult to imagine correspondingly genocidal language being directed at any other country. Given that he's the authorof Heavy Metal Islam, LeVine's juvenile language might be chalked up to his rock 'n' roll persona, but it is hardly befitting the temperament of a scholar.

To read the entire article, please click here.

By Cinnamon Stillwell  |  June 22, 2015 at 1:15 pm  |  Permalink

A Year After His Death, Fouad Ajami's Detractors Look Worse than Ever

Fouad Ajami

Lebanese-born Middle East studies scholar Fouad Ajami died one year ago today. At the time of his death, his lemming-like detractors attacked him, viciously at times, for his refusal to ape their cultural relativism and biased scholarship. Today at FrontPage Magazine, CW director Winfield Myers critiques the critics and finds them boorish and intellectually parochial:

"He came with conceptions, but he made a voyage of discovery. And so he caught truths, deeper and more durable truths about himself and about us all." (The Traveler's Luck)

So wrote Fouad Ajami, who died one year ago today, about Joseph Conrad, whose talents for capturing the clash between East and West he judged superior to V.S. Naipaul's. He might have been writing about his own gift for interpreting the Middle East from his adopted American home. The truths he caught were gained (like Conrad's) through an immigrant's eyes—eyes trained not just on his adopted country, but on the land of his birth.

To read the rest of this essay, please click here.

By Winfield Myers  |  June 22, 2015 at 9:16 am  |  Permalink

Jonathan Judaken Smears Campus Watch in Pursuit of Victimhood

Jonathan Judaken

Jonathan Judaken, a history professor at Rhodes College, has penned a histrionic attack on Campus Watch (CW) for the website Inside Higher Ed blaming CW for a published report on a recent lecture he delivered at the University of Rochester. Among Judaken's numerous errors, one stands out: Campus Watch had nothing to do with the article that gave him the vapors.

Don't you hate it when that happens?

The report, by Rochester Institute of Technology English lecturer A.J. Caschetta, appeared first at Jihad Watch and then at the Middle East Forum, of which CW is indeed a project. But as anyone familiar with think tanks should know, articles appearing on one site do not denote sponsorship by another. It's a bit like saying, or, given the tenor of Judaken's piece, screaming while rending one's garment, that Rhodes College has attacked CW because of the ill-informed actions of a single professor.

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By Winfield Myers  |  June 16, 2015 at 9:21 pm  |  Permalink

Conspiratorial Anti-Semitism: From Juan Cole to Diane Rehm

Juan Cole

David Bernstein, writing for the Volokh Conspiracy at the Washington Post, points out that the brand of conspiratorial anti-Semitism underlying National Public Radio (NPR) host Diane Rehm's questioning last week of presidential candidate Bernie Sanders' nonexistent dual Israeli-American citizenship is exemplified by, among others, University of Michigan history professor Juan Cole:

Consider that in 2005, when he was perhaps the most influential progressive commenter on the Middle East, University of Michigan Professor Juan Cole wrote this of Bush Administration official Doug Feith: "Having a Likudnik as the number three man in the Pentagon is a nightmare for American national security, since Feith could never be trusted to put US interests over those of Ariel Sharon." Feith, according to Cole, "played fast and loose with the truth . . . on behalf of a non-American political party, the Likud coalition of Israel."

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By Cinnamon Stillwell  |  June 15, 2015 at 5:19 pm  |  Permalink

The Postcolonial Rot Spreads Beyond Middle East Studies

The nihilistic methodologies common within Middle East studies, including postcolonial studies as exemplified by the late Edward Said, have harmed the humanities and social sciences across the disciplines. Bruce Thornton, a classics professor at California State University, Fresno, traces this intellectual decline today in an essay commissioned by CW and published at FrontPage Magazine:

In theory, Middle East studies programs are a good idea. One of the biggest impediments to countering modern jihadism has been the lack of historical knowledge about the region and Islam. But even the attention and urgency that followed the terrorist attacks on 9/11 have not led to such knowledge. The result has been policies pursued both by Republicans and Democrats that are doomed to fail, as the current chaos in the region attests.

To read the rest of this essay, please click here.

By Winfield Myers  |  June 15, 2015 at 5:09 pm  |  Permalink

Noura Erakat Wages Lawfare on Israel

Noura Erakat

Since the 2014 Gaza war, proponents of lawfare have sought to use the International Criminal Court to punish Israel for daring to respond militarily to Hamas's unrelenting aggression. Noura Erakat, an assistant professor in legal and international studies at George Mason University and an adjunct professor at Georgetown University's Center for Contemporary Arab Studies, presented her case in a recent talk at Stanford University titled, "War on Gaza in the Age of Human Rights: Prospects for Accountability." In the latest Campus Watch research, appearing today at Jihad Watch, CW West Coast representative Cinnamon Stillwell reports on Erakat's lecture:

The niece of Palestinian Authority (P.A.) chief negotiator Saeb Erakat, Erakat's tone was calm and measured, her demeanor pleasant, and her partisanship unmistakable, even when couched in the dispassionate language of international human rights law.

Seated in a conference room before an audience of approximately forty, many of them fellow academics, Erakat began by noting that because this was "not a legal audience," she would depart from her planned presentation and instead focus on "setting the framework for the lead-up" to the war and on providing "the legal and political context" for the situation in Gaza.

To read the entire article, please click here.

By Cinnamon Stillwell  |  June 13, 2015 at 12:43 pm  |  Permalink

Radical Madrasa Apologist Ebrahim Moosa Developing Islamic Studies at Notre Dame

Ebrahim Moosa

South African-born Islamic studies professor Ebrahim Moosa, formerly of Duke University, is now developing an "imaginative, world-class Islamic studies program" at Notre Dame University. As reported by Campus Watch, Moosa, speaking at a 2011 UC Berkeley workshop, defended Deobandism, the madrasa-based radical ideology that inspires the Taliban. A graduate of Deobandi theological training in India--a background he expounds upon in his recently published book, What is a Madrasa?--Moosa continues to insist that "the demonization of madrasas is an incorrect perspective held by many in the West." With such guidance, Notre Dame's Islamic studies program will be very imaginative, indeed.

By Cinnamon Stillwell  |  June 1, 2015 at 5:10 pm  |  Permalink

Legitimizing Censorship: 'Islamophobia Studies' at Berkeley

"Islamophobia studies" is the latest addition to the academic pantheon of politicized, esoteric, and divisive "studies" whose purpose is to censor criticism of differing views by stigmatizing critics as racist or clinically insane. The University of California, Berkeley's recent Sixth Annual International Islamophobia Conference—organized by the Islamophobia Research & Documentation Project (IRDP)—was titled, "The State of the Islamophobia Studies Field." The problem is this "field" doesn't yet formally exist in the U.S., but that didn't stop speakers from engaging in victimology, academic jargon, and anti-Western rhetoric. Campus Watch West Coast representative Cinnamon Stillwell and contributor Rima Greene provide the details, and the latest CW research, at Jihad Watch:

The audience, including a number of women in hijabs (headscarves), ranged from twenty to fifty students and faculty members. Because the conference was preempted by another event, it had to shift between two venues. Adding to the confusion, the schedule was made available online only days before. While IRDP director and Near Eastern studies lecturer Hatem Bazian bragged at the outset that the conference livestream had garnered "seven thousand" viewers in 2014, this year, visual and audio problems often rendered it unwatchable.

In his introduction, Bazian apologized for these mishaps before launching into a glowing report about the alleged state of "Islamophobia studies," which, according to the IRDP website, "has witnessed rapid expansion in the past fifteen years." He claimed that the field had "come of age" in that there is "no longer . . . a debate over whether we should use the term or not" or if "it is real or not," except for "those who really don't want to confront Islamophobia" or "don't want to deal with the reality of what has taken place."

To read the entire article, please click here.

By Cinnamon Stillwell  |  May 23, 2015 at 1:19 pm  |  Permalink

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