Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Will Middle Eastern Scholarship At Barnard Sink to Columbia's Level?

As a alumnus of Columbia University, I have grown used to reading about the bias of Columbia University's Middle East Studies program. I recovered from the nausea at the mishandling of the students' complaints and have put behind me the specious arguments confusing sloppy scholarship and self-serving propaganda with free speech--or for that matter the convenient confusion of criticism and demand for accuracy with the stifling of free speech.

Columbia University has done for Middle East Scholarship what it has done for football.

So I really am not surprised to hear that Barnard has it's share of anti-Israel propaganda parading as scholarship either. When Jameel from The Muqata writes about Does Barnard Need Junk Academics? the answer is probably yes.

Nadia Abu El Haj, who is seeking tenure at Barnard, is on a par with Dr. Nabil Hilmi, Dean of the Faculty of Law at the University of Al-Zaqaziq. Back in August 2003, that illustrious gentleman wanted to sue Jews for the theft of everything taken by Jews during the Exodus.

According Rabbi Avi Shafran:
the Talmud tells of precisely such a claim lodged over 2000 years ago in a world court of sorts presided over by none other than Alexander the Great.

The story is recounted in Sanhedrin 91a, where it is recorded that one Geviha ben Pesisa responded on the Jews' behalf. A paraphrase of the excerpt follows:

"What is your source?" Geviha asked the Egyptian representatives.

"The Torah," they replied.

"Very well," said Geviha, "I too will invoke the Torah, which says that the Jews spent 430 years laboring in Egypt. Please compensate us for 600,000 men's work for that period of time."

The Egyptians, the Talmud continues, then asked Alexander for three days during which to formulate a response. The recess was granted but the representatives, finding no counter-argument, never returned.

Neither did Hilmi.

El Haj, who writes that the "existence of the ancient Israelite and Hebrew kingdoms should be considered “a pure political fabrication,” in this case has actually be rebutted by a number of actual historians and scholars. One might actually hope that Barnard might find the wherewithal to actually take a stand for honest scholarship.

Hey, it could happen.

No doubt El Haj can find a position at any of a number of Arab/Muslim educational institutions where such propaganda is the norm.

Go read Muqata's post on what else El Haj is writing.

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