In an earlier post I wrote, “The best analogy of a Historian’s brain I have heard is of it being like a dung heap in that, if you leave it long enough it is likely something will grow.”(1). While this is not always true, it is invariably so. Of course, at times the drivel can be cleverly concealed and I can even remember once reading German historical journals from 1940 at “Das Institut für Zeitgeschichte” and thinking how well written, how entertaining and, to some extent, how well informed, some of the articles were. Of course, they were well-written, entertaining, well-informed drivel. By accident today, I found myself looking at more drivel that was well-written, entertaining, well-informed.
Edward Said devotes a chapter in his book, ‘The End of the Peace Process’ to his visiting his son Wadie on the West Bank.(2) This led me into googling Wadie and discovering among other things that Pro-Israeli groups attempted to stop the Wayne State University Law School from hiring him. Whether he was ultimately offered the position or not, I don’t know and in the meantime he appears to have been offered a position at the University of Southern California Law School.(3) Nonetheless, although unsure of what happened behind the scenes at Wayne State, what I found appalling was not only how groups such as “standwithus” can actually influence academic freedom, but also how they have their more articulate pro-Zionists backers at institutions such as “Campus Watch” to provide the “intellectual clout”, if need be. An example of the type of intellect we are talking about is provided by Cinnamon Stillwell’s refutal(4) of Fawaz Turki’s, rather well-written and well-informed article that is not, in fact, drivel, an article on the very topic I am discussing, namely academic freedom.(5) She replies to Turki’s criticism of ‘Campus Watch’, by writing, “In fact, Campus Watch, as indicated in our mission statement, reviews and critiques Middle East studies in North America with an aim to improving them. Our work is not limited to Israel or the Arab/Israeli conflict. It encompasses an effort to bring objective scholarship back to the field of Middle East studies.(6) Is this to be taken seriously? Have a look at the mission statement for the United States government.
Of course, these are clever people and that they are clever people is evidenced by their coverage of the Norman Finkelstein, Alan Dershowitz “Auseinandersetzung”.(7) Poor old Alan really is becoming a bit of a liability and the only way Campus Watch can strive for that “objective scholarship” that is embodied in their mission statement is to balance the quite sound pro-Finkelstein statements with some “gobbly-gook” nonsense that defames the author of “Beyond Chutzpah” without addressing the real debate that is going on.(8) Of course, this is because there is no real debate and the only difference between Dershowitz and Campus Watch is the quality of the nonsense that they produce. At Campus Watch the nonsense is well-informed, well-written and at times even entertaining. It remains, however, verbose drivel that attempts to hide rather than answer the real issues that are brought up by academics such as, Pappe, Finkelstein, Khalidi, Edward Said and, yes, Fawaz Turki.
A long time ago , I learned to stop wasting my time with drivel and, as academic drivel is, nevertheless, still academic, I don’t have a problem with the people at Campus Watch spouting it. It is important, after all, that academic freedom prevails, which, of course, also means that people like Finkelstein, Pappe, Khalidi and Turki are also heard. Finally, the good news, of course is that we do have something called a “law of unintended consequences” and I am sure Waddi is over the moon at having ended up in LA and not in Detriot.
2 Edward W. Said, ‘The End of the Peace Process’, Chapter 13
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