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Hamas’s Academic Cheerleaders By: Cinnamon Stillwell
FrontPageMagazine.com | Tuesday, January 27, 2009


If further proof was needed that the field of Middle East studies is marred by a politicized, morally vacuous approach to the Arab-Israeli conflict, the reaction of many of its leading lights to the current war in Gaza should suffice.

According to these self-appointed arbiters of international law, Israel’s military campaign against Hamas following the firing of over 6,000 rockets at Israeli civilian targets since 2005 is unjustified. Hamas, they tell us, is not a terrorist organization bent on Israel’s destruction, but rather a national liberation movement that seeks only the noble founding of a Palestinian state. Either that or its leaders, all evidence to the contrary, can be negotiated with and cajoled into moderation. They insist Israel recognize that Hamas was democratically elected in 2006, even as they deny any responsibility on the part of Gazans for electing a terrorist government.

Simultaneously, they falsely accuse Israel of being a racist, colonialist, apartheid state seeking not to defend its citizens against indiscriminate attacks, but to exert hegemony over the entire region. Israelis are blamed for the breakdown of all prior attempts at negotiation, while Hamas is let off the hook for its continued aggression, violence against fellow Palestinians, media manipulation, use of human shields, and of schools, hospitals, UN offices, and mosques as bases from which to launch attacks.

In other words, the same tired narrative of Israeli oppression and Palestinian victimhood dominant in past years has simply been applied to the present scenario.

What follows are pearls of wisdom from the academic Middle East studies establishment.

On the nature of Hamas:

“…Hamas is the poor and impoverished representative of a poor and impoverished people. The obscenity of first demonizing Hamas and then blaming it for the vicious war crimes that Israel is perpetrating against Palestinians has now passed any measure of common decency. Hamas is the legitimate and democratically elected representative of Palestinian people - a grassroots organization deeply embedded in and integral to the Palestinian national liberation movement.”

Hamid Dabashi, Hagop Kevorkian Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature, Columbia University

“The claim that Hamas will never accept the existence of Israel has proved equally misinformed, as Hamas leaders explicitly announce their intention to do just that in the pages of the Los Angeles Times or to any international leader or journalist who will meet with them.”

Mark LeVine, professor of Middle East history, University of California, Irvine

“Hamas is not a monolith…yes, Hamas engages in terrorism, Hamas carries out certain terrorist actions, but Hamas is not just a huge monolith. There are multiple points of view and narratives within Hamas.”

Fawaz Gerges, Christian A. Johnson Chairholder in International Affairs and Middle Eastern Studies, Sarah Lawrence College

“Hamas has been branded a terrorist organization by U.S. and Israel and much of the international community. I think that’s very unfortunate…Hamas is first and foremost a deeply rooted political organization with social and cultural and other dimensions to it. It was elected. It has come forward many, many times to negotiate a truce with Israel, including recently…”

Beshara Doumani, associate professor of history, University of California, Berkeley

“Hamas is a group that has grassroots backing from the Palestinian people. Hamas has been leading a resistance against a colonial occupation. …I think any resistance against a colonial occupier is justified. …I would defend Hamas as actually, you know, doing practical things to fight Israeli colonialism.”

Pranav Jani, assistant professor of English, Ohio State University

“Here let us remember that Hamas was democratically elected in free elections and that its elected officials and members of parliament were kidnapped by the Israeli occupation and have been languishing in Israeli jails for years, and that the Palestinian Collaborationist Authority set their offices on fire, staged strikes against them, and signaled the PCA bureaucracy not to follow their orders. It was after all this failed to dislodge Hamas from power that the US, Israel, and the PCA staged a coup to massacre Hamas leaders in Gaza that backfired on them. The carnage unleashed by Israel…is the latest attempt by Israel to ensure that all Arabs and all Palestinians are ruled by dictators and never by democratically elected officials.”

Joseph Massad, associate professor of modern Arab politics and intellectual history, Columbia University

“Hamas shot a few rockets into Israel; but that is who they are and that is what they do – they are a terrorist organization.”

Muqtedar Khan, director of Islamic studies, University of Delaware

On the origins of the current conflict:

“… the conflict did not start with the Qassam rockets…it wasn’t a simple story of good guys vs. bad guys, of Israeli poor victims vs. Palestinian evil terrorists. …Gaza was indeed emptied from Israeli soldiers and settlements in the Disengagement Plan in 2005 but…this was only a tactical change of the means of control Israel employed.”

Yonatan Mendel, Middle Eastern studies PhD candidate, Cambridge University, Tami Sarfatti, history PhD candidate, University of California, Los Angeles

“The state terror unleashed from the skies and on the ground against the Gaza Strip as we speak has nothing to do with Hamas. It has nothing to do with ‘Terror’. It has nothing to do with the long-term ‘security’ of the Jewish State or with Hizbullah or Syria or Iran except insofar as it is aggravating the conditions that have led up to this crisis today.”

Jennifer Loewenstein, associate director of Middle Eastern studies, University of Wisconsin

“Meticulously and clinically thought through even before the first rocket from Gaza claimed a life inside Israel, the slaughter in Gaza today has nothing to do with rockets or with Hamas.”

Saree Makdisi, professor of English and comparative literature, University of California, Los Angeles

Negotiation is a much more effective way to deal with rockets and other forms of violence. This might have been able to happen had Israel fulfilled the terms of the June cease-fire and lifted its blockade of the Gaza Strip. This war on the people of Gaza isn’t really about rockets. Nor is it about ‘restoring Israel’s deterrence’…

Rashid Khalidi, Edward Said Professor of Arabic Studies, Columbia University

“Since Nov. 4, when Israel effectively broke the truce with Hamas by attacking Gaza on a scale then unprecedented – a fact now buried with Gaza's dead – the violence has escalated as Hamas responded by sending hundreds of rockets into Israel to kill Israeli civilians…”

Sara Roy, senior research scholar, Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Harvard University

“For a week before Israel’s retaliatory strikes, Hamas fired over 100 rockets into Israel without killing anyone, but providing the necessary justification for Israel…”

Muqtedar Khan, director of Islamic studies, University of Delaware

“…this fits a larger pattern in which Israeli violence has been responsible for ending 79 per cent of all lulls in violence since the outbreak of the second intifada, compared with only 8 per cent for Hamas and other Palestinian factions.”

Mark LeVine, professor of Middle East history, University of California, Irvine

“Israel’s continuing a program of making a two state solution impossible by building settlements, building a wall, building Jewish-only roads; that creates continuous Israeli control over this area. That is the true goal of this campaign.”

Beshara Doumani, associate professor of history, University of California, Berkeley

“Strip away the clichés and the vacuous newspeak blaring out across the servile media and its pathetic corps of voluntary state servants in the Western world and what you will find is the naked desire for hegemony; for power over the weak and dominion over the world’s wealth.”

Jennifer Loewenstein, associate director of Middle Eastern studies, University of Wisconsin

On Israel’s bombing of the Islamic University of Gaza, which is controlled by Hamas and has been used to launch attacks, house weaponry, and hold kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit:

“While we decry Israeli war crimes and violations of human rights, and condemn the massive Israeli bombardment of Gaza which has caused hundreds of deaths, as educators in California institutions of higher learning, we are especially appalled at the destruction of educational institutions and student casualties.…Although Israel has claimed that the science laboratory facilities were used as ‘a research and development center for Hamas weapons,’ this claim has been denied by officials of Gaza Islamic University…”

California Scholars for Academic Freedom

On what is to be done:

Israel has no choice but to negotiate itself out of the mess it got itself into in the first place.”

Beshara Doumani, associate professor of history, University of California, Berkeley

“There is no military solution for an essentially political crisis. …one way to come closer to a political solution is to include Hamas in the process.”

Fawaz Gerges, Christian A. Johnson Chairholder in International Affairs and Middle Eastern Studies, Sarah Lawrence College

“Naming names and denouncing individually every prominent Israeli intellectual who has publicly endorsed their elected officials’ wide-eyed barbarism, and then categorically boycotting their universities and colleges, film festivals and cultural institutions, is the single most important act of solidarity that their counterparts can do around the world.”

Hamid Dabashi, Hagop Kevorkian Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature, Columbia University

“We’ve won on this before, and we're going to win again [referring to convincing Israel to agree to a ceasefire].”

Stephen Zunes, professor of politics and international studies, San Francisco State University

“If they have the tears to endure...we have the weapons to respond: the distance to understand, and the time and means to get organized.”

Tariq Ramadan, Swiss Islam scholar and grandson of Muslim Brotherhood founder Hassan El-Banna

On America’s role:

“The United States bears much of the blame for the ongoing bloodshed in the Gaza Strip and nearby parts of Israel.”

Stephen Zunes, professor of politics and international studies, San Francisco State University

“…senior American politicians and policy-makers who are either unwilling to risk alienating American Jewish voters, or have been so brainwashed by the constant barrage of propaganda put out by the ‘Israel Lobby’ that they are incapable of reaching an independent judgment about the conflict.”

Mark LeVine, professor of Middle East history, University of California, Irvine

Do they [Palestinians] not deserve to live without the constant fear of having Israel drop American-made bombs drop from American-made planes on their head?

Omid Safi, associate professor of religious studies, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

Israel and the U.S. are supposed to be democracies that care about human rights. But when they massacre hundreds of people and their citizens watch in silence, no protests, no shock, then there is something fundamentally wrong. …Unless we wake up and change course very soon, there may be no difference left between democracy and terrorism, and that will be the ultimate victory for terrorism.”

Muqtedar Khan, director of Islamic studies, University of Delaware

On Israeli society:

“Israelis are clearly incapable. Their addiction as a society to the illusion of violence-as-power has reached the level of collective mental illness.”

Mark LeVine, professor of Middle East history, University of California, Irvine

Israel’s victories are pyrrhic and reveal the limits of Israeli power and our own limitations as a people: our inability to live a life without barriers. Are these the boundaries of our rebirth after the Holocaust?”

Sara Roy, senior research scholar, Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Harvard University

On Israeli prospects for victory:

Israel has already lost the Gaza invasion.”

Hamid Dabashi, Hagop Kevorkian Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature, Columbia University

“The crushing of the Gaza Ghetto Uprising and the slaughter of its defenseless population will be relatively an easy task for the giant Israeli military machine and Israel's sadistic political leadership. It is dealing with the aftermath of a strengthened Palestinian determination to continue to resist Israel that will prove much more difficult for Israel and its Arab allies to deal with.”

Joseph Massad, associate professor of modern Arab politics and intellectual history, Columbia University

“Palestinians growing up in Gaza don't have proper nutrition or education and wars like this from Israel only cement their anger toward Israel. …Israel has created a more and more desperate enemy.”

Joshua Landis, co-director of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, University of Oklahoma

“…it seems to me that the longer the crisis continues, the more radicalized Arab public opinion will likely become.”

Fawaz Gerges, Christian A. Johnson Chairholder in International Affairs and Middle Eastern Studies, Sarah Lawrence College

Final word:

“The Palestinian resistance is legitimate...”

Tariq Ramadan, Swiss Islam scholar

The antipathy towards Israel and sympathy for Hamas demonstrated by these academics goes far beyond mere bias. Acting as apologists for terrorists who purposefully seek to kill Israeli civilians, and singling out Israel, among all the nations on earth, as not having a right to protect itself, is akin to fanaticism.

The next time one of these “experts” purports to educate the masses on this most crucial of conflicts, consider the source.


Cinnamon Stillwell is the West Coast Representative for Campus Watch, a project of the Middle East Forum. She can be reached at stillwell@meforum.org.



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