Fresno’s Durban Conference

Fresno State’s Middle East Studies program is planning an “International Conference” on “Teaching about the Middle East in the 21st Century” this October.

Why do I care? Because, given the politicization of academia in general and Middle East Studies in particular — and the individuals running the conference — I expect that it will not be a quiet exercise in arcane scholarship.

Instead, I expect another attempt to bring the politics of hatred to our local university, just as the same people turned a benign “International Days” event into a vicious anti-Israel “Palestine Day” in 2003.

Papers apparently can be about absolutely anything Mideast-related. Some of the ‘disciplines’ listed are

• Culture, Gender & Ethnography
• Diaspora & Migration Culture
• Middle East Politics & Representations
• U.S. Foreign Policy

It’s easy to guess the kind of material that is likely to be presented in those ‘disciplines’, especially since the postmodernist revolution in academia has made it possible to claim that anything politically congenial to the writer is true (see Nadia Abu El-Haj and CSUF’s own Mary Husain).

The conference chair is Dr. Sasan Fayazmanesh, by trade an economist, but known for popularizing the term “USrael”, in support of his view that US and Israeli policy is closely coordinated (if only it were so), and dominated by a “neo-con” (Jewish) cabal.

The Middle East Studies program has been in existence for a year, funded by a grant from the US Department of Education. Judging by the course offerings and programs, my feeling is that it should have been called “Arab and Persian” studies, since there is no indication that there are or ever have been Christians or Jews in the region! The program is chaired by Dr. Vida Samiian, Dean of the College of Arts and Humanities, “Palestine Day” organizer, and an activist who has been responsible for bringing numerous anti-Israel speakers and films to the area.

Let’s hope this will not turn into Fresno’s Durban Conference.

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