Postmodern Palestinian propagandist pretends to be a scholar

Here comes Columbia University again (specifically Barnard College), where another Palestinian propagandist masquerading as a scholar is about to receive tenure:

Nadia Abu El-Haj, an assistant professor of anthropology at Barnard, is the author of “Facts on the Ground,” a 2001 book that questions archaeological claims regarding the ancient Jewish presence in Israel and argues that Israeli archaeologists legitimize the Jewish state’s “origin myth.”

An online petition against Abu El-Haj had garnered nearly 1,000 signatures as of Tuesday, the bulk of them from students and graduates of Barnard or Columbia University, its institutional parent.

The controversy over El-Haj threatens to raise questions anew about the integrity of Columbia’s scholarship on the Middle East, which first came under fire in 2004 with the release of a documentary film alleging university professors intimidated and embarrassed pro-Israel students who challenged them in class. A committee of inquiry subsequently found only one example of improper behavior, leading critics to call the report a whitewash. — JTA

“Facts on the Ground: Archaeological Practice and Territorial Self-Fashioning in Israeli Society” is Abu El-Haj’s only book. An anthropologist of Israeli society who doesn’t speak or read Hebrew and who knows little about archaeology, she nevertheless can deny such well-known facts as the existence of the Hasmonean and Davidic dynasties, as well as explain the psychological motivations of the Israeli archaeologists who have studied such things.

The Solomonia blog has an article discussing the controversy in detail (“Who’s Coming Up For Tenure: Nadia Abu El-Haj“), including references and excerpts of reviews of the book. I want to quote one short passage from it — which, in my opinion, says it all — and then recommend that you read the whole article:

Abu El Haj’s scorn for evidence-based scholarship is explicit. In her own words, she writes within a scholarly tradition that “Reject(s) a positivist commitment to scientific methods…” Rather, her work is “rooted in… post structuralism, philosophical critiques of foundationalism, Marxism and critical theory… and developed in response to specific postcolonial political movements.”

Naturally, the discussion is turning into one of how Jews get what they want by applying pressure rather than one about Abu El-Haj’s scholarship or lack of it. But regarding the latter, here is a detailed review by historian and archaeologist David Meir-Levy, (also thanks to Solomonia).

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One Response to “Postmodern Palestinian propagandist pretends to be a scholar”

  1. Shalom Freedman says:

    The confounding of objective standards of scholarship by substituting ideological opinionizing in its place is the destruction of academic life.
    Let’s hope that in this case Columbia will not sanction phony sub- academic work.