The Case of Nadia Abu El-Haj

Another day, another politicized tenure battle. This time the target is Nadia Abu El-Haj, a Palestinian-American anthropologist who teaches at Barnard College. El-Haj is the author of Facts on the Ground, a controversial book that argues, to quote the publisher's description, that "archaeology helped not only to legitimize [Israel's] cultural and political visions but, far more powerfully, to reshape them." Her tenure is being challenged by Paula Stern, a pro-Israel activist whose petition against El-Haj has gathered more than 1200 signatures. The campaign has attracted some press coverage, and Stern's charges have been uncritically reprinted by the conservative pressure group Campus Watch.

I hold no brief for El-Haj's book. I have not read it, and even if I had I would be in no position to judge the quality of her scholarship. But I am in a position to judge the quality of Stern's arguments: They clearly, unmistakably distort the truth, and they do so in easily checked ways.

Richard Silverstein of Tikun Olam has already noted several potential problems with the petition, in a post based on correspondence with scholars familiar with El-Haj's work. Stern claims, for example, that El-Haj ignores a "truly vast body of written evidence" that the book in fact mentions many times; Stern claims the author does not speak Hebrew when in fact she does; and so on. Silverstein also wonders if the petition's quotes from the book are taken out of context. Stern writes, for instance, that El-Haj

asserts that the ancient Israelite kingdoms are a "pure political fabrication."

Silverstein asks, "Why wouldn't it have been possible to quote an entire sentence or paragraph to determine what El-Haj actually wrote and believes on this subject?" The answer: Because quoting the full paragraph would reveal that it does not, in fact, take the radical position Stern ascribes to El-Haj. Using Amazon Reader, I looked up the quote in question. Here's the original text:

While by early the 1990s, virtually all archaeologists argued for the need to disentangle the goals of their professional practice from the quest for Jewish origins and objects that framed an earlier archaeological project, the fact that there is some national-cultural connection between contemporary (Israeli)-Jews and such objects was not itself generally open to sustained discussion. That commitment remained, for the most part, and for most practicing archaeologists, fundamental. (Although archaeologists argued increasingly that the archaeological past should have no bearing upon contemporary political claims.) In other words, the modern Jewish/Israeli belief in ancient Israelite origins is not understood as pure political fabrication.

Pretty stunning difference, huh? Here's another carefully gerrymandered quote from the petition:

We are aware that Abu El Haj excuses herself from the expectation that scholarship will be based on evidence. In her introduction, she informs the world that she "Reject(s) a positivist commitment to scientific methods..."

Instead of using scientific standards of evidence, her work is "rooted in...post structuralism, philosophical critiques of foundationalism, Marxism and critical theory...and developed in response to specific postcolonial political movements."

We reject the idea that Marxism, post-colonialism, post-structuralism or any other approach can nullify the obligation of scholars to base their work on evidence.

Here is the book's original text:

Questions concerning the relationship between interpretation and data and between theory and evidence have come center stage as increasing numbers of archaeologists are debating the politics of their own discipline, including its potential uses and the implications for their professional work. Rejecting a positivist commitment to scientific method whereby politics is seen to intervene only in instances of bad science, such critics have argued that archaeological knowledge (as but one instance of scientific knowledge) is inherently a social product. Rooted in multiple intellectual traditions (poststructuralism, philosophical critiques of foundationalism, Marxism and critical theory, a sociology of scientific knowledge) and developed in response to specific postcolonial political movements (specifically, demands for the repatriation of cultural objects and human remains by indigenous groups in settler nations such as Australia, the U.S. and Canada), this critical tradition is united, at its most basic level, by a commitment to understanding archeology as necessarily political.

Again, the phrases in quotation marks do appear in the text, but their meaning is distorted radically. While El-Haj obviously has sympathy for the intellectual tradition she's describing, there's a reason why her description is in the third person. There is an obvious distinction between listing the diverse roots of a scholarly movement and saying that you yourself embrace all (or any) of those roots. As for that "positivist commitment to scientific method" business, it sure reads differently when you specify that it's the view that "politics is seen to intervene only in instances of bad science" that's being rejected.

As I said before, I hold no brief for El-Haj's book. But if it is a work of sloppy scholarship, the petitioners are doing its author a favor. Rather than asking her to confront serious charges that might stick, they're firing a volley of easily refuted distortions. If this is the best they can do, I suspect she'll be teaching at Barnard for a long time.

Update: Winfield Myers of Campus Watch objects to my comment that his group "uncritically reprinted" Stern's charges. Myers points to a disclaimer at the bottom of the page in question: "Articles listed under 'Middle East Studies in the News' provide information on current developments concerning Middle East studies on North American campuses. These reports do not necessarily reflect the views of Campus Watch and do not necessarily correspond to Campus Watch's critique."

I think my phrase is accurate -- Campus Watch did reprint Stern's charges, and it did not criticize them -- but I appreciate the distinction Myers is drawing. I am pleased to hear that his group does not endorse the misquotes in Stern's petition. I hope that in the future it will be more selective when choosing articles to reprint.

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  • Marcvs||

    Scientists can be a surprisingly petty and partisan group (like all of us humans). I think it gets worse with the softer sciences, but I'm not sure. Luis Alvarez (a Nobel Prize-winning physicist) once wrote of paleontologists: "They're really not very good scientists. They're more like stamp collectors."

  • ||

    This is becoming an all too typical trend in academe today: criticize Israel and you get a petition from outside the institution to get you thrown out. Of course it's not only bound to have a chilling effect, but made to do that. The US is probably the only place in the Western world with such a pro-Israeli view of the current conflict, but even that is not enough for Likudian zealots (hey, thats what zealots do, you're either 100% with them or you're the devil). This is not to say that there is not bad scholarship in academe, that in many college departments some bad work is allowed to pass if it takes an ideoologically hip stance, nor that some tighter standards wouldn't go a long way to do good. But when these fellows systematically and selectively go after anti-Israeli or anti-America scholars it's pretty clear that its not bad scholarship and academic responsibility in general they are pushing but rather viewpoint discrimination...And you have to think that a group of Zionist jewish activists organizing and fundraising to silence critics of Israel has got to give far more credence and firepower to anti-Semitic conspiracy theorists than the work of these scholars they target could ever have. Hey, that guy says defenders of Israel are a highly organized well funded cabal of Jewish activists who fanatically work to defend Israel's image and use heavy handed tactics to silence any critics, so let's us jewish activists organize and raise funds to engage in heavy handed tactics to silence that guy! That'll show 'em....

  • ||

    "archaeology helped not only to legitimize [Israel's] cultural and political visions but, far more powerfully, to reshape them."

    How is this not Critical Theory again?

  • ||

    And yet college campuses are usually hotbeds of end-the-occupation movements and "antidiscrimination here, multiculturalism means we ignore discrimination there" protests.

    Academia isn't leftist-dominated, it's easy-way-outist dominated.

  • iih||

    jb:

    I am not sure I get your point, but here is in response to what I think you are saying.

    I do not know when was the last time you were on a college campus, but the pro-Israel movement is far stronger than any anti-occupation movement. It is only the anti-occupation movements that gets a handful of attack in the mainstream media -- as if college campuses are, as you seem to believe, are "leftist-dominated".

  • ||

    I've lived on college campuses for 7 out of the last 8 years. Even the campus Jewish groups are all anti-occupation. I'm not sure who's behind the pro-Israel movement, but it's not the majority of students.

  • ||

    jb, I'm not sure I understand you. Do you mean that it's not possible to be both pro-Israel and anti-occupation at the same time? I'm really not being snarky; I'm genuinely confused.

  • iih||

    Karen:

    That is actually a very good point. I think that there are many pro-Israel but anti-occupation movements on campuses. The pro-Israel "part" is usually much more vocal and active than the "anti-occupation" component.

  • ||

    Can the author be de-tenured for recurrent incoherent, pompous, or unnecessary prose?

  • ||

    "Israel has a right to exist, but should end the occupation" isn't a terribly sexy slogan.

    Also, "pro-Israel" and "in favor of Israel's continued existence" aren't necessarily synonymous.

    Third, pro-Israel rhetoric generally involves praising Israel for being a democracy that extends full rights to its women, surrounded by dictatorships that don't. It's rare to see a group saying "End the occupation so the sexist authoritarian PA regime can have more power."

    Since I've mainly encountered the generic orientalist multiculturalist position among students, I'm suggesting that the blacklisting of anything remotely resembling anti-Israel positions can't be originating with the student body.

  • Adam W.||

    Karen, yes. I support Israel, but oppose the settlements (I'm Jewish FWIW).

  • ||

    I support Israel, but oppose the settlements (I'm a goy FWIW).

  • The Wine Commonsewer-Reg US Pa||

    The issue is tenure. Without tenure people would be whole lot less riled about what Nadia has to say. It's the same reason why the left releases the pit bulls every time a Republican nominates a judge.

    Once the judge is confirmed or the instructor is tenured the game's over.

  • ||

    Quoting out of context.

  • ||

    Quoting out of context.

    In your first quote, you commit the error you accuse Paula Stern of. the next sentence reads:

    It is not an ideological assertion comparable to Arab claims of Canaanite or other ancient tribal roots. Although both origin tales, Arab and Jewish, are structurally similar as historical claims, Broshi's argument betrays a "heirarchy of credibility" in which "facticity" is conferred only upon the latter."

    She continues, you can go to Amazon and look it up.

    But her point here is the post-modernist claim that there is no way of establishiinga a "heirarchy of evidence" that would produce "facticity." No way to examine the archaeological evidence and judge that, because of all the many hundreds of pieces of written evidence that have emerged as facts form the gorund, including names and securely dated reigns for many Hebrew kings, we can confer facticity on the narrative that ancient Israelite kingdoms existed.

    Her point is to decry the unwillingness of archaeologists to treat the Israelite kingdoms as the pure political fabrications she beiieves them to be.

  • ||

    Quoting out of context again.

    You really do need to read the whole introduction.

    Abu El Haj's is a conplex, convoluted style, but the paragraphs that you lift out of context are embedded in a discourse of dense post-modernist and post-colonial rhetoric in which she describs herself as writing within the traditions of opposition to scientific method and commitment to the postmodern, poststructuralist, and specific post-colonial movements that she refers to in the third person in the third person.

  • the innominate one||

    TWC:

    You make a good point, which I partly agree with, but come to the opposite conclusion. The appointment of a supreme court justice or granting of tenure is the critical moment, and the only moment when political considerations are likely to have much effect. That is why political considerations come into play at times like these. Once the justice is confirmed, or the professor is tenured, political considerations are largely irrelevant, which is exactly the point of the lifetime appointments for justices and the tenure system. I would have to conclude the system works in most cases.

  • thoreau||

    A more basic point about tenure is that it is in some ways an accident of history that continues because it's a desirable bargaining chip. For reasons good or bad, it's something that schools have offered. Once it's out there and on the table, it's a desirable thing to have. So if you want to recruit a professor you have to offer it. A school that doesn't offer it would be at a disadvantage. And it's a worthwhile thing to offer because even after tenure many (but certainly not all!) professors remain active researchers and good teachers.

    Of course, this is starting to change. Private for-profit colleges and universities don't offer tenure, and some of them are rising in stature. Various private niche schools don't offer tenure, including some of the more prestigious ones in their niches. So I'm not convinced that tenure will be universal in another century.

    But it will be part of the bargain for at least another 6 years, which is all I need.

  • thoreau||

    EDIT:

    So if you want to recruit a professor you have to offer it because everybody else is offering it.

  • Jesse Walker||

    anon: What do you want me to do, quote the entire two chapters? I quoted enough to show how off-base Stern was, and that's really all that's required here.

    The first quotation clearly does not say that the ancient Israelite kingdoms are a "pure political fabrication"; Stern yanked those words out of context. I started to write about the following & preceding paragraphs as well, by the way, because I think they make Stern's gloss even more untenable. But the post was already overlong.

    The second quote is misrepresented as well. As I wrote in the post, she's obviously sympathetic to that tradition, but there's a clear difference between laying out the multiple ideological roots of a critique and declaring that your book is based in all those ideologies. And Stern's treatment of "positivist commitment to scientific method" is just indefensible. (Since when is appreciating the sociology of knowledge equivalent to rejecting the very idea of evidence? This is dime-store anti-postmodernism.)

  • ||

    Out of context

    Nadia El Haj is a purveyor of dime-store- postmodernism.

    You are yanking quotes and sentences out of context.

    Her project is to deconstruct the "origin myth" of ancient Jewish roots in Israel. Her methodology is the dime-store postmodernist conceit that no facticity can be conferred on anything. People object to her book because there are thousands of facts in the ground proving the facticity of those ancient kingdoms.

  • ||

    Anon
    So should all postmodernists who do revisionism be denied tenure, or just those whose work deconstructs pro-Israeli narratives that, whatever their "facticity" are often quite consciously used by Israeli administrations to strengthen claims on occupied territory? Really, this lady is not being singled out because she does revisionism, that's rampant in academe (its how young scholars try to make a name). This is viewpoint discrimination, plain and simple.

  • ||

    Attention was drawn to Abu El Haj because the particular narrative she has chosen to deconstruct is the narrative of ancient Jewish history in the land of Israel.

    I do not like her politics because she is open in her opposition to the existence of the State of Israel. But I accept a lot of things I do not like (the Presidence of George Bush, lack of a decent health care provision for all Americans, the failure of either party to put a responsible environmental policy in place.)

    However, I would not oppose her tenure bid if not for the fact that her scholarship is so shoddy. Some fine scholars hold political views that I consider vile. I live with it. Abu El Haj holds political views that I consider vile, and she is a demonstrably inferior scholar.

    We are talking about someone who writes about archaeology, but who does not know a power arm from a bulldozer, asserts that Herodian Jerusalem was "not Jewish," and places the remains of solomon's palace (assuming Solomon existed and that he had a palace) within the footprint of the Ottoman-era Jewish quarter despite the fact that the walls of the city did not ezetend to the west of the hill calle Ir David (city of David) until they were extended in the reign of Hezekiah in thelate eighth century. The book is riddled with such mistakes. To anyone who knows the history or archaeology of the area, she sounds embarrassingly ignorant. On page after page.

    Worse, however, is her dishonest and glaring omission of all written evidence. Hundreds of pieces of securely-dated writing in paleoHebrew exist. to leave this out and claim that archaeological artifacts cannot support the assertion of ethnicity is simply to lie by omission.

    Politics aside, appointments at universities shuld be given to scholars of merit.

  • ||

    I support Israel, but oppose the settlements

    I call you and raise "I oppose Israel, but support the settlements"

  • ||

    Revisionism and post-modernism.

    She does not do revisionism. Revisionism is to reinterpret history (or some other field) in the light of the evidence.

    She does postmodernism, or what is called experimental writing. i.e., she puts forth a narrative that is internally consistent but not supported by evidence.

    A scholar willing to encounter the evidence of Israeli archaeology and/or of Israeli attitudes towards archaeology and reinterpret it would be embarked on a legitimate enterprise. Such a scholar would not, of course, be able to conslude as Abu El Haj does that Israel is an illegitimate colonial state whose inhabitants have no connection to the ancient inhabitants of the land. The problem with El Haj is that she begins with this conclusion, and doctors the evidence to fit.

    Not cricket and not scholarly.

  • ||

    So if you want to recruit a professor you have to offer it.

    Absolute proof that thoreau knows absolutely nothing about markets.

    Hey anyone want to guess what happens if you offer more pay up front to your workers but with less pension benefits?

    If you are Toyota it means you out compete Ford and GM, not only making more cars that people want to buy but making more money per car as well....

    ....hmmm I wonder what would happen if Universities offered more money yet no tenure?

  • thoreau||

    joshua corning-

    "Have to" was a bit of an overstatement, but it is a very desireable thing to have, and so a school that doesn't offer it is at a disadvantage in recruitment. Sure, a school could offer more money to make up for that disadvantage, but offering tenure is a way to be competitive while offering less money.

    Now, it is quite likely that universities could do just as well offering more money but no tenure, but then they'd have to either charge more tuition (to cover those higher salaries) or trim money from the budget in some other way (good luck talking the deans into that).

    I won't claim that tenure is an absolute necessity for a school to be competitive in faculty recruitment. Indeed, if you had read the second paragraph of my 8:36 pm post you'd know that.

  • Jesse Walker||

    I'm putting quotes in context, Anon. I could have said more--by pointing out, for example, that the first quote is actually part of El-Haj's summary & critique of another writer's position--but that would have been overkill. Find me a passage where El-Haj flatly declares that the ancient Israelite kingdoms are a "pure political fabrication," in those words, and I'll retract my post.

    Same goes for quote #2. Yes, El-Haj says her book "builds on" (or some phrase like that) the tradition she describes. She does not -- in that passage, anyway -- identify her book itself as poststructuralist, Marxist, etc.; she's describing the intellectual background of the various scholars who created that tradition. And she does not reject the idea of evidence; she looks at how that which is accepted as "evidence" is constructed in different social contexts. I have not read the entire book, and it may well be filled with ideas I would reject as nonsense. But the project as she lays it out in that passage isn't nonsensical at all.

    Finally, have you read Silverstein's critique at his blog? Follow the link in my original post. He quotes Brendan McKay disputing a couple of the criticisms you made in your post at 9:50. I don't know whether it's you or McKay who's wrong, but his claims are worth addressing.

  • ||

    GO ISRAELIS!

    GO ARABS!

    GO ISRAELIS!

    GO ARABS!

    ISRAEL, ISRAEL, ISRAEL!!!!

    ARABS, ARABS, ARABS!!!

    ISRAEL!!!!

    ARABS!!!!!

    ISRAEL NEEDS AMERICAN AID!!!!

    NO THATS UNFAIR, ARABS NEED AMERICAN AID!!!!

    GO ISRAEL!

    GO ARABS!

  • thoreau||

    Oh, hell, I'll just say it:

    DEMAND KURVE!!!!!!!!

  • iih||



    ISRAEL NEEDS AMERICAN AID!!!!

    NO THATS UNFAIR, ARABS NEED AMERICAN AID!!!!


    NEITHER SHOULD GET AMERICAN AID!

    ;-)

    And coming from a college professor, tenure is a poorly-thought system, though it has some minute part of goodness.

  • demand kurve||

    MATT DAMON!!!!!

  • ||

    Anti-Isrealites, whether in academia, the press, or in politics, often get bullied and intimidated. When a MOSSAD agent and a Mexican Jew (With fake Pakistani Passports) tried to blow up the Parliament in Mexico in Oct. 2001, CNN dropped the story like a hot potato, and no major media outlet covered it.

    The FBI says that it has "insufficient evidence linking Bin Laden to the 9/11 attacks" and also says that information linking Israel to the attacks is classified.
    (Some European Intel sources say that Israel masterminded the attacks using hired guns from Saudi Arabia)

    So, don't accuse Israel of anything, or you're in trouble.

    We are giving Israel 30 billion in military aid, and we are also arming the Saudi's to the teeth. If they destroy one another, perhaps the rest of the world will be a safer place.

    Just recently, some Muslim clerics of India put a death sentence on another author. Militant Zionists and orthodox Muslims hate each other because they are exactly alike.

  • ||

    ODO--

    Mexico doesn't have a Parliament. It has a Congress.

  • ||

    Jesse

    Sometimes you really do have to read the whole book.

    In her convoluted, eliptical style she repeatedly denies Jewish history in ancient Israel, regularly calling it a "myth" but the accusation is made by an accumulation of slurs and innuendo.

    But here is one of her clear - and clearly outrageous - brief, and undeniably incorrect statements, bottom of page 175.

    In " the Herodian period Jerusalem was not a Jewish city, but rather one integrated into larger empires and inhabited, primarily, by "other" communities."

    It is true that Herodian Jerusalem was a semi-autonomous kingdom under Herod, integrated into the Roman Empire.

    But it was an overwhelmingly Jewish city. The archaeology has been done and it agrees with the historiography. No scholar in the world denies that Herodian Jerusalem was a majority Jewish city e, ecxept the inimitable Abu El Haj.

    Silverstein is not much of a source. He accuses Campus Watch of being behind the petition. But Campus Watch denies it. http://www.campus-watch.org/weblog/id/90 I see no particular reason to doubt that a politically active Barnard graduate, who is a writer by trade, living in Israel, and politically pro-Israel might have done this on her own. Certainly Silverstein makes his accusation without supporting evidence.

    The most sophisticated review of this book in print is by Alex Joffee in Near Eastern Studies. Posted at http://www.solomonia.com/blog/archives/008510.shtml for the convenience of those who do not have a connection to a university library. I suggest that you read it. Or that you read the book, but, as with many books, it is hard to spot the errors unless you know something about the period and about archaeology. that is why the opinion of archaeologists like Joffe is more valuable than the opinion of richard Silverstein, who I do not know , but who does not claim to be an archaeologist.

  • Jesse Walker||

    I will look at the review. I may even read the whole book, though I'm not eager to do so: If there's one thing we probably agree on, it's that El-Haj is a dreadful stylist. But whether or not Silverstein is right about Campus Watch shouldn't have any bearing on whether the fellow he quotes is right about El-Haj's book, so again, I'd appreciate a reply to those particular criticisms. (Or will I see those points made in the review? Guess I should click through and read it.)

    Going back to my original post: I hold no brief for the book, and I'm certainly open to the idea that it's shoddy. But there's a difference between solid scholarly criticism, of the kind I hope to see from Joffee, and distorted quotations. The latter do not help the former.

  • iih||

    anon:

    What you describe seems to me to be strong counter-arguments to strong arguments made by Haj (I am neither an Archaeologist, nor really a historian in the strictest definition of the word). But as a scientist, it seems to me that what is going on regarding Haj is a legitimate scientific debate. After all, it is when scientists propose, with sound reason, a new vision or perspective, this is when breakthroughs happen. Without the guts that is required to make such propositions, and without the counter arguments that seek to find holes in the proposed new theory, then no real progress will ever happen.

    So there seems to be a disagreement, but scientifically I do not see the disagreement as a reason to deny tenure, which is what I think the debate is really about. It is not about the truth of Haj's propositions, but about whether political considerations should be a parameter in the debate. You argue that Haj is politicizing her research and Jesse argues that it is the pro-Israel group that does.

    To me, I think Jesse got it right. Why should an external group (even if alumni) influence the decision of the tenure committee. Isn't the tenure committee capable of finding out that Haj's arguments are not scientific or fundamentally flawed? Especially if Haj's arguments are so "clearly obviously false"?

  • the innominate one||

    Candidates for professorial positions at traditional colleges and universities expect that tenure can eventually be earned. I'd say thoreau knows something about markets and about the professorial candidate market specifically.

  • ||

    anonymous sources

    The point the Silverstein blog cites about anonymous sources reveals a special aspect of anthropology. Anthropologists don't work with illiterate people on remote islands anymore. they work with members of ethnic or curltural groups embedded in contemprary society. An anthropologist quoting a housewife may get the informant into trouble with her community if the informant says somethig unpopular and is identified. There was a recent tenure battle where the anthropologist was accused of inventing informants, and produced the informants for the tenure commmittee. This has persuaded many anthropologists that keeping informants anonymous is good.

    The present case is quite different.

    Abu El Haj is not relying on informants to relate their own beliefs and actions. In dozens of instances she makes statements of fact, often very odd statements of fact, citing only a conversation with an anonymous sourse. For example,

    "One archaeologist told me of a right-wing colleague who was constantly labeling Christian sites Jewish." (233)

    That is an extraordinary accusation to base on hearsay. In fact, in a country where archaeologist regularly dig up and publicize Christian sites of all kinds, it is an extraordinary statement. period.

    In the instance that has become somewhat notorious, Abu El Haj accuses an individual highly regarded , politically left-wing archaeologist, David Ussishkin, of bulldozing non-Jewish artifacts at the dig at Jezreel. She bases this accusation on a coversation with anonymous "archaeologists and student volunteers." This is an extraordinary charge to level. A high crime and misdemeanor in the archaeological profession - if it were true.

    this sort of accusation is one of the reasons why archaeologists dismiss ths book as nonsense, or, as one Israeli archaeologist of my acquaintance put it "shtuyot."

  • Bee||

    If she is a sloppy postmodernist with an ideological axe to grind, she is no different from thousands upon thousands of already-tenured liberal arts faculty. Any special fuss made over her credentials would be due to her having a non-standard axe. Oh, and she actually has the word "Haj" in her name. Oh Noes!!

    Isn't university supposed to be (at least partly) about exposure to unfamiliar or unorthodox points of view?

  • ||

    What if the tenure committee itself is composed of highly politicized post-modernists some of whom have taken public anti-Israel positions?

  • ||

    I am good with unfamiliar and unorthodox positions on the condition that the scholars who put them forward encounter the evidence in the field they are writing about. Abu El Haj does not do so.

  • iih||

    What if the tenure committee itself is composed of highly politicized post-modernists some of whom have taken public anti-Israel positions?

    Then petition the whole university for its stances and do not cherry-pick which faculty gets to stay and which does not. Will the petitioners petition every other professor with shoddy research at Barnard? Will they do it at other schools? This seems to be a targeted mission, and with that I have some problems.

    Plus Barnard is a private college. Its their money, their reputation, and their faculty. Stern has every right to petition, but Barnard has every right (and self-interest) in making the decision they see in their best interest, though really they should make it based on the scientific qualities of the faculty in question.

  • iih||

    anon:

    What if the tenure committee itself is composed of highly politicized post-modernists some of whom have taken public anti-Israel positions?

    That last part of your statement reveals that the problem you have with the tenure committee is again not about their scientific qualifications and substance, but about the fact that they "have taken public anti-Israel positions". If someone is anti-Israel (and I am not quite sure how exactly you define that term "anti-Israel"), does that automatically discredit the scientific qualifications of the person in question? I really have a problem with that stance. There are many very good biologists who are creationists, should we dismiss their possibly good work because of their belief?

  • ||

    Stern seems to forget that the answer to unpopular speech is more speech, not less. Paula Stern is an anti-American hussy regardless of the veracity of Nadia Abu El-Haj's claims.

  • ||

    Now, it is quite likely that universities could do just as well offering more money but no tenure, but then they'd have to either charge more tuition (to cover those higher salaries)

    Wrong....the university that did not offer tenure would not have to pay dead beat unproductive tenured professors.

  • ||

    "There are many very good biologists who are creationists..."

    There are? I am not a biologist, and I have never played one on TV either, but I don't see how you can be a biologist, much less a good biologist, and embrace creationism. The contradictions and idiosyncracies of people can be amazing though.

  • Underzog||

    This Stern person is to be applauded for trying to make sense out of the so-called Palestinian's nonsense. In the first quotation examined, what the so-called Palestinian is saying is that the Joos have tricked people into believing that Jews have some archeological/historical connection to the land.

    The message of the second quotation is along similiar lines of the need for Marxist/post modernist commentary on scientific findings(!).

    I've always found you Libertarian Rhoemite types most amusing. With all the drugs you right wing hippies take, it's no wonder you can't think coherently and believe that the so-called Palestinian's nonsense is something reasonable and objective (even as she denies objectivity with her Marxist post Modernism).

    Here's a lesson in literary interpretation about your so-called Palestinian girlfriend, when reading a con artist, like this phony archeologist, one doesn't read a con artist word for word; one reads the writing to try to get a general impression of what the person is trying to accomplish. This Stern person has done that admirably in making sense of the gibberish that your fellow anti-Semite has written.

    My hat is off to Stern for wading through the so-called Palestinian's post modernism mumbo jumbo. It must've been torture to look at the so-called Palestinians post modernist word salad.

    As you right wing hippies are nihilists and have the proclivities of Ernst Rhoem, of course the zionist entity and Jews themselves should be wiped out. It must be a gas (pun intended) for you doped up clowns to even think about it. However, my Libertarian buddies aren't so open about it after the whithering criticism your movement suffered at the pen of Peter Schwartz. Since Schwartz and later Mercer pointed out how much Libertarians loathe the Jewish State, you chaps have been more circumspect.

    Love Ya!

    "There's no need to fear; Underzog is here!" (and don't forget the "Underdog" movie that just came out)

  • iih||

    wayne:

    Oh yes you can. There is room for both, at least if the religion in question is not Christianity (and I can not speak for Christians since I am not one). The argument goes as follows: "Physical evidence seems to contradict the literal word of scripture. We either do not have full comprehension of the scientific theory, or full comprehension of the meaning of scripture (beyond its literal apparent meaning). Einstein for example believed in God and Jewish scripture, despite the possible contradictions.

  • ||

    While Paula Stern is being criticized for politicizing the tenure process, the appointments and tenure process in many fields is highly politicized. some members of the Barnard Committee signed the divestment petition, which I would define as anti-Israel. Several are highly committed to the post-colonial scholarship of Edward Said, which defines Israel as an illegitimate colonial state. Can someone like Barnard tenure committee member Natalie Kampen who is committed to post-colonialism and divestment from Israel be ojective in evaluating an anti-Israel, post-colonial book?

    It is worth asking how political tenure committees are.

  • iih||

    anon:

    Outside pro-Israel circles, has there been scientific criticism of Haj's work? I think that bringing such politically "unbiased" criticism of Haj's work to the forefront would do better for the pro-Israel movement.

    As a side note, I am not sure that "pro-" and "anti-" Israel is very helpful language. It implies the now-typical "with us or against us" situation. A person who is not pro-Israel is not necessarily anti-Israel. One could be an objective observer -- neither for nor against. That objective observer could at times agree with "pro-Israel" views and at others disagree. Just my humble opinion.

  • iih||

    Outside pro-Israel circles, has there been scientific criticism of Haj's work? I think that bringing such politically "unbiased" criticism of Haj's work to the forefront would do better for the pro-Israel movement.

    Actually let me re-state:

    Outside pro-Israel circles, has there been scientific criticism of Haj's work? I think that bringing such politically "unbiased" criticism of Haj's work to the forefront would do better for the case against granting tenure to Haj.

  • ||

    Anon
    So if someone were doing "shoddy" postmodernist work on Faulkner you and Stern would not be so upset that you would lobby the college, from the outside, to have this woman denied tenure. This is viewpoint discrimination: to target this woman, whose work may indeed be "shoddy", because her views are "bad" while letting other shoddy work slide because the political implications do not offend you. This is actually why we have tenure in the first place, to defend against this and its chilling effect on innovative but perhaps unpopular views and findings.
    As to shoddy work, Note that the college has an established tenure review process. As someone going through a tenure process I can tell you these things are not automatic nor are they handed out like hotcakes (even if your work is politically correct). Your work is grilled. You have to have scholarly, teaching and service contributions that warrant it. Many, many people are turned down, but they are turned down by a committee of their peers who look at the quality of their contributions, not politically invested outsiders. Now, of course they cannot examine whether their contributions are shoddy by declaring them "true" or "false" since there are many live controversies within a field and many people on the tenure review will not be of the field itself (or the subfields within fields, academe is a very specialized place). In your comment: "Such a scholar would not, of course, be able to conslude as Abu El Haj does that Israel is an illegitimate colonial state whose inhabitants have no connection to the ancient inhabitants of the land" you show that for you her position is just untenable and this is a closed question, amounting to saying that the moon is made of green cheese. I don't know this field esepcially, but this woman is a PhD in it and has published in it and from what I have read while she may not be convincing she has made reasonable scholarly arguments for her position. Her field probably does not hold that this position is as outrageous of a claim as you think it is or that this question is closed, and of course her tenure committee cannot do so. Should they go off a petition or a blogger who says "hey this woman is wrong and bad (note that you imply you think she is "bad" because you don't like the political implications of her work)?" In the charged field of academe how in the world could or should a tenure committee base its decision on that? You admit that you and Stern are more concerned about her work because of its "bad" political implications. Of course tenure committees can't take such nonsense into account (if they did don't you think, considering their numbers in academe, libertarian and conservative thinkers would be the first to be denied, even more so than occurs now?). They have to go on whether the academic publishes and presents regularly. People like yourself and Stern need to really, really butt out. If you think her work is bad, then get a Phd and publish work demonstrating its falsity. That's how a free market in ideas works. But strong arm tactics bullying an institution to deny someone tenure whose work you don't like and find plainly "shoddy" (and its clear from your comments that you have an ideological stake in seeing her work as "wrong") should not rule the day.
    Given your comments I also have to question what you know about postmodernism. I'm no fan of it, it's in my field (the social sciences) all too much, but I question your grasp of it. It usually has to do with taking some accepted narrative or understanding and then challenging it. Sometimes this means simply revisionism, reinterperting claims in contrary fashions, demonstrating how the former narratives were ideologically charged, formed, and used, and in its extreme form how this is inevitable (hence the charge against it that it relatives all truth claims; all narratives came from an ideological place and serve ideological goals and the postmodernist kind of draws the curtain back to expose this while supposedly detnonating the claims to objective truth that these narratives lay hold to). I find this perspective to be lacking frankly and would be glad to talk about why, but more importantly I don't think it so lacking or so worthless that these folks should be dismissed out of hand, even if their ideological implications are bad.

    Let me go further and comment on your main point: Israel's "undisputed" historical connection to the land. I agree that certainly Jews acniently lived somewhat roughly in the land that we now refer to as Israel and Palestine. Of course Jewish "myths" (like the Old Testamend) are mixed as far as being reliable as to the extent, duration, etc., of what was inhabited where when by whom (how could they not be?). However, it's also simply true that Jewish connection with the land had a big gap in it between a period relatively ancient and the modern Zionist movement where the bulk of the population simply plopped down from half a world away into a land already inhabited by folks who may not have been able to trace back to the same land 2,000 years ago but that had been living there unbroken for many generations. This is what makes Israel in its current form strike me and many people as illegitimate. But what is even more illegitimate are the post-1967 borders as it is immoral and illegal to occupy people's and lands gained from military conquest. It's also just evident that Israel has actively encouraged at the least and fostered and organized at the most the use of archeology to solidify claims of historical connection, (Christians are guilty of this too) finding sites that may or may not be Biblical ones and straining to interpret them as such to give credence to their narrative, and using these to acheive political goals. This is much of what it appears that this prof writes about and criticizes, and it strikes me as fair game...Both Israeli Jews and Christians have made claims of the Biblical connections of archeological sites that have been found to be strained at best and at times just unwarranted.

  • ||

    Neither of these reviewers has, to my knowledge, a position on Israel.

    phdiva.blogspot.com/2007/05/nadia-aby-el-haj-and-use-of-evidence.html

    http://www.greycat.org/papers/archaeo.htm

    There are probably more. These were easy to fond on a quick google search.

  • ||

    I think David Ussishkin's response to the vicious attack made on his methodology by Abu El Haj , an attack she substantiates only by referring to anonymous "archaeologists and student volunteers" has some standing here.

    Ussishkin is a member of Israel Finkelstein's school of Biblical minimalism, or late dating.

    His personal politics are well left of center.

    He is an extremely highly respected archaeologist.

    http://www.solomonia.com/blog/archives/009649.shtml

  • ||

    Two adademic reviews:

    http://www.meforum.org/article/560
    Jacob Lassner
    Middle East Quarterly
    Summer 2003

    Facts on the Ground: Archaeological Practice and Territorial Self-Fashioning in Israeli Society, Alexander H Joffe. Journal of Near Eastern Studies. Chicago: Oct 2005. Vol. 64, Iss. 4; p. 297.
    http://www.solomonia.com/blog/archives/008510.shtml
    (note: this review was posted by a blogger because it is otherwise available only to those with access to a University library)

  • iih||

    anon:

    Thanks. Will go through them. But as I said earlier, if I had a case for tenure, I would prefer that my case be reviewed and judged by my peers from within and without the institution that I am at, without me or someone else politicizing the evaluation process, which is really my concern with "outsiders" jumping in on Haj's case.

  • ||

    Jesse,

    to understand why the reviewers and Paul Stern claim that she denies that ancient Israel existed, go back to amazon and type in keywords: origin myth. You come up with three passages like this:

    "It was precisely through this dispute over details that a tale best understood as the modern nation's origin myth was transported into the realm of history - that an ancient Israelite social collectivity emerged as historical fact." p. 104

    As archaeologist Dorothy King put it in her essay on Abu El Haj, phdiva.blogspot.com/2007/05/nadia-aby-el-haj-and-use-of-evidence.html , El Haj characterizes the archaeologically secure , well-documented Israelite kingdoms as mere myths, like the founding of the Japaneese imperial house by the Sun Goddess.

  • ||

    Actually, it looks to me, even based on the tightly-editted passage you quoted, that she's denying that those Hebrew kingdoms were "a social collectivity."

    Pro-settlment Zionists often claim that their mission is the restoration of a unified Israelite nation. The observation that there was no such nation, that the Israelite presence in the area consisted of diverse and scattered kingdoms that did not have a unified identity, and lived alongside many other communities, is not the same thing as denying that there is an archaeological record of Israelite presence in the area.

  • Jesse Walker||

    Emmet: First of all, my beef is with the misuse of that particular quote ("pure political fabrication"), not the very claim that El-Haj denies the existence of the ancient Israelite kingdoms. For all I know the book does make that claim. That said, I looked up the three places in the tome where "origin myth" appears, and I don't think your interpretation is necessarily true. She's talking about the ways modern nations construct origin narratives, with implications of continuity etc. When anthropologists use the word "myth," they aren't making a statement about whether a story is true or false; they're discussing how the story is used. If you asked El-Haj if the Palestinians have an origin myth as well, I'm almost certain she would say "yes."

    Haven't read the reviews yet -- I've spent most of today doing family stuff. Thanks for all the links.

    Underzog: Excellent parody. "So-called Palestinian" was an inspired touch.

  • Jesse Walker||

    Richard Silverstein just wrote to tell me that he's having trouble posting a comment on this thread and asking if I'll paste it in for him. Here it is:

    * * * * *

    Can the author be de-tenured for recurrent incoherent, pompous,
    or unnecessary prose?


    I agree with you Matthew. But I'm a former PhD candidate in Comp Lit &
    quite familiar with dense theoretical critical analysis. Sure, it often
    reeks of this sort of jargon. But that doesn't mean that the work doesn't
    speak to important issues in the field in the language that those in the
    field understand themselves. I'm not defending the prose as I wouldn't
    write that way myself I don't think even were I writing something about
    critical literary theory. But we need to keep in mind that her audience
    wasn't you or me but archaeologists, anthropologists & others in related
    fields.

    Anon, is clearly a clever anti Abu El Haj propagandist. A little smarter
    than Paula Stern, but a propagandist nevertheless. And he trots out
    virtually the same arguments & the same alleged proof as she does.

    Let's go back to the quote fr her that he mentions:

    It is not an ideological assertion comparable to Arab claims of
    Canaanite or other ancient tribal roots. Although both origin tales, Arab
    and Jewish, are structurally similar as historical claims, Broshi's argument
    betrays a "heirarchy of credibility" in which "facticity" is conferred only
    upon the latter."


    This passage by no means declares that an ancient Israeli kingdom was a
    "pure political fabrication." It merely asks why, if both peoples have
    ancient claims of origin is the Israelite claim the only one granted
    historical credibility, while the Palestinian one is ignored or diminished?
    That seems a legitimate question to me. It doesn't negate the Israeli
    claim. It merely asks why the 2nd claim isn't accorded credibility.

    she describs herself as writing within the traditions of
    opposition to scientific method and commitment to the postmodern,
    poststructuralist, and specific post-colonial movements that she refers to
    in the third person


    Wrong again as I point out in my own post about this. She is describing a
    school of archaelogy here, not her own personal or scholarly views. In
    fact, I know for a direct fact that she does not hold to these views herself
    though I am certain that she feels more sympathy for them than for the
    conventional archaelogical approaches she critiques in the book.

    I do not like her politics because she is open in her opposition
    to the existence of the State of Israel.


    Pls. do quote anything she has written that says this.

    [She] places the remains of solomon's palace (assuming Solomon
    existed and that he had a palace) within the footprint of the Ottoman-era
    Jewish quarter despite the fact that the walls of the city did not ezetend
    to the west of the hill calle Ir David (city of David) until they were
    extended in the reign of Hezekiah in thelate eighth century.


    This is also not true as Prof. Brendan McKay has pointed out:

    The excavation al Haj is discussing was not in the modern Jewish
    Quarter but on the south slopes of the Haram al-Sharif, in other words
    between the Temple Mount and the City of David.


    Hundreds of pieces of securely-dated writing in paleoHebrew
    exist. to leave this out and claim that archaeological artifacts cannot
    support the assertion of ethnicity is simply to lie by
    omission.


    Again, McKay disputes this claim:

    A few quick searches [of the book] shows that in fact these
    inscriptions are mentioned repeatedly throughout the book. The biggest lie
    here is [when] the petition.claims that these inscriptions support the
    Biblical pre-exilic story when in fact the intersection between story and
    evidence is extremely slight and controversial. Even the meaning of the
    "House of David" inscription is hotly disputed amongst the
    experts.


    Abu El Haj [concludes]...Israel['s]...inhabitants have no
    connection to the ancient inhabitants of the land.


    She does not believe this & I challenge you to provide evidence she does.

    was an overwhelmingly Jewish city. The archaeology has been done
    and it agrees with the historiography. No scholar in the world denies that
    Herodian Jerusalem was a majority Jewish city e, ecxept the inimitable Abu
    El Haj.


    But you have provided no source to verfiy yr claim that it was a majority
    Jewish city. And even if was a majority Jewish city, Jerusalem through the
    ages has been a city shared with many communities and religions and all of
    them have conflicting traditions regarding the city. I think what she is
    arguing is that Israelis have already given preference for their own
    narrative regarding Jerusalem and given short shrift to that of others. She
    is arguing for balance more than anything something that is lacking within
    Israeli society when it comes to the values and traditions of minority
    communities.

    He accuses Campus Watch of being behind the petition. But Campus
    Watch denies it.


    Besides the fact that CW as a site is built on a tissue of lies and
    distortions against its "enemies," let's assume that Campus Watch isn't
    behind the petition. The fact is that Campus Watch & Frontpagemagazine have
    been on the warpath against Abu El Haj for months. If Stern & these sites
    aren't in direct collusion then they're a loose alliance of the like-minded
    with the same agenda: to smear Abu El-Haj in order to advance their own
    ideological agenda.

    The most sophisticated review of this book in print is by Alex
    Joffee in Near Eastern Studies.


    By "most sophisticated" you really mean "the best hatchet job" don't you?
    There are many nasty negative reviews of this book. There are many positive
    ones. You put forward the ones that suit yr agenda & disregard the rest
    that don't. Convenient.

    Regarding the use of sources. Abu El Haf does not name her sources in some
    instances. One wishes she would have. But one cannot know the reasons for
    this though one could make educated guesses. If a graduate student or even
    fellow professor witnessed the incident & reported it to Abu El Haj would
    she be willing to endanger the person's future career by leaving them open
    to retaliation? Perhaps the informant demanded anonymity. We just don't
    know. I always prefer to names sources. But there are cases in journalism
    and academic discourse where you don't & there are many valid reasons for
    this practice.

  • underzog||

    In addition to Mrs. Stern's cogent arguments and heroic effort in uncovering and making plain the Haj person's word salad, this Haj person should be given a seat at any university by virtue of her support of Palestinian terrorism.

    The Arab Palestinian claim is a completely phony one. Your hero, Egyptain born Yassir Arafat died of aids. He was also a pedophile which might be part of the reason you Rhoemites support him and his cause. Just as we do not have people teaching in Universities that talk about them being fiction Klingons with exclusive rights to a Klingon area, there's no reason why we should have an alleged representative of this phony Palestinian cause teaching their mythical garbage in a place of learning devoted to imparting facts to knowledge hungry students.

    "There's no need to fear; Underzog is here!" (and don't forget the "Underdog" movie that just came out)

  • thoreau||

    joshua-

    Certainly there are some tenured professors who are relatively unproductive. However, you can't just eliminate those positions and offer the money to junior stars because the teaching roster still needs to be filled.

    Also, while I can't speak to every discipline, in the natural sciences and engineering I'd say that most people remain quite productive well past tenure. The ones who are less productive as researchers often assume crucial mentoring roles in the department. In almost every institution that I've been associated with I've benefited from an informal relationship with a guy who had progressed to a senior stage of his career and no longer ran a research program of the same caliber as his colleagues. As an undergrad, I worked in a lab with a guy who no longer had to devote so much attention to grad students and grants and could spend more time one-on-one in the lab with undergraduates. I learned far more from him than I did in any classroom. In grad school there was a guy who no longer took graduate students but was still active in teaching, sat on thesis committees, and ran a small research lab. He was my "informal" advisor, a guy that I could go to for advice when I wasn't comfortable talking to my official thesis advisor, and he get me through some tough spots. In one of my adjunct faculty jobs I spent a lot of time talking to a guy who just taught and sat on committees and no longer did much research, and learned a lot of useful things about my job.

    So even the ones who are less productive on paper are often still teaching and mentoring, which are the most important roles of a professor.

    So the amount of dead weight is probably less than you think. But I will grant that there is some dead weight, and some of the teaching load could be lifted with adjuncts. This is indeed what is happening, to some extent. Schools are trying to get an older generation to take early retirement, and are being more selective about filling those spots. Teaching loads are being filled in part with adjuncts, and full time faculty are being hired more selectively.

    So yes, I do know a thing or two about the faculty job market.

    Oh, and as I said above, private for-profit schools are on the rise. I was an adjunct at one for a while. Mostly they offer professional, trade, and vocational programs rather than basic science, and only hire basic scientists as adjuncts to teach prerequisite classes. If I knew of a for-profit school hiring full-timers to teach basic and applied science, and to mentor senior research projects as well as teach the standard curriculum, I'd seriously considering applying, depending on the pay, even if tenure wasn't offered.

  • ||

    Who is this underzog and why does he make me long for the cool, rational, understated thought of Single Issue Voter?
    What a troll. Back under the bridge with ya!

  • ||

    post-colonial rhetoric in which she describs herself as writing within the traditions of opposition to scientific method



    El-haj is making the rather obvious point that scientific method is inapplicable to the political interpretation of archaelogical fact. Here I note that the problem isn't reading out of context, but that you seem unable to read.

  • ||

    Does Nadia Abu El Haj know Hebrew?


    For those of you who don't know...I live in Israel. I speak Hebrew every day, in all settings. One would assume that someone who is studying the culture and archeology of a land would want to have an in-depth understanding of the language of the people, the language in which the bulk of the experts would be writing. The most experienced experts in Israeli archeology are...Israelis. They write in Hebrew. They converse in Hebrew. They study and work in Hebrew. So...as someone who would want to give the impression that she is an expert in her field...or why else would she have chosen to do her dissertation in this field (why, indeed?)...it is valid to ask if Nadia Abu El Haj is even capable of understanding the language in which the bulk of the literature is written. So, does Nadia Abu El Haj know Hebrew?

    She says she studied Hebrew in her Acknowledgements section, but reviewers of her work have doubted that she knows enough Hebrew to function in the language. Any Israeli reading the book will quickly see that the numerous mistakes she makes are a clear indication...this woman is as uncertain and unskilled in her Hebrew skills as she is in her research, her documentation, her ability to draw logical and intelligent conclusions based on real facts on the ground.

    "In particular, discussing Israeli archeology as a cultural phenomenon requires an in-depth understanding of Israeli society and, above all, a working knowledge of scholarly Hebrew. Abu el-Haj indicates she studied Hebrew in a desultory fashion, and although her bibliography and footnotes do contain references to Hebrew publications, she appears to have invested lightly in the multitude of Hebrew sources that could have informed her study and made it compelling." -- http://www.meforum.org/article/560
    Jacob Lassner
    Middle East Quarterly
    Summer 2003

    Abu El Haj claims that in her book she "analyzes the significance of archaeology to the Israeli state and society and the role it played in the formation and enactment of its colonial-national historical imagination.…"

    The usual scholarly approach to looking at the role of something like archaeology in any society is to systematically examine such sources as school books, newspapers, and popular literature. Anthropologists also ascertain attitudes and beliefs by conducting interviews with members of the society being studied. Abu El Hj neither conducted interviews with Israelis nor explored the sources - school books, newspapers, novels, political speeches, and so forth - that would have revealed the range of Israeli opinion on archaeology. There is every possibility that she failed to take this important step for a very simple reason...she couldn't read them; she couldn't understand them. They are, after all, in the language of the Jewish state she so despises: Hebrew.

    Instead, she took the ordinary tours that tourists take. The book includes several extended passages in which she seems to put forth the words of a particular tour guide as representative of Israeli opinion as a whole.
    This is a methodological problem with the book. Instead of studying Israeli society, she quotes the opinion of a couple of tour guides in the Jewish Quarter. And she quotes them directly and entirely in English. It is reasonable to assume that she (people who have heard her speak report that she sounds like a native, American English speaker) took the tours in English.

    Here is an academic critique of her methodology in studying Israeli society.
    "But any discussion of how high culture connects to low culture must include a review of the locations where this really happens in an active sense, not least of all school curricula, pamphlets, and newspapers. On these Abu El-Haj is largely silent, choosing instead to retread the familiar ground of Zionist nature walks. Her omission may be contrasted with the work of Amatzia Baram on Ba'athist Iraq or Asher Kaufman on 'Phoenicianism' in Maronite Lebanon, not to mention Nachman Ben-Yehuda's on Masada in Israeli culture. (10) Her determination to focus on high culture products such as museums and 'space' is again in the tradition of Said. Not coincidentally, these are precisely the subjects explored most cogently by leftist Israeli academics, whom she cites approvingly and repeatedly. They, like the revisionist Israeli 'New Historians' are at least familiar with their subjects.
    "Whatever might have been said or created by archaeology is received differently by pluralist society. People heard, and hear, what they want to hear; as Yaacov Shavit notes, in a critically important English-language paper not cited by Abu El-Haj, Israeli archaeology was many different things to different people. (11) Historical memory, a concept she invokes without mentioning Pierre Nora or Maurice Halbwachs, is produced throughout every society and not merely among intellectuals. As if to compensate for her elevated focus, she tries to grasp the 'meaning' of the 'facts' she has gathered by a kind of crypto-ethnography, overheard snippets of tourist chatter, conversations with unnamed informant archaeologists, and commentary from ever reliable tour guides. Does this chart public opinion or public policy in any meaningful way? It is a flimsy and unconvincing method for entering into the gestalt of Israeli society. If nothing else it is undone by her pretending to straddle the impossible boundary between observer-independent and observer-dependent relations. Her understanding of Israeli politics is simplistic and falls back on convenient dichotomies; religious versus non religious, Mizrahi versus Ashkenazi, and of course, religious-nationalist 'settlers' versus everyone. (12) Ultimately, Abu El-Haj's anthropology is undone by her epistemology and ill-informed narrative, intrusive counter-politics, and by her unwillingness to either enter or observe Israeli society with a modicum of sympathy or generosity."
    Facts on the Ground: Archaeological Practice and Territorial Self-Fashioning in Israeli Society, Alexander H Joffe. Journal of Near Eastern Studies. Chicago: Oct 2005. Vol. 64, Iss. 4; p. 297.
    http://www.solomonia.com/blog/archives/008510.shtml

    Add to this the fact that Israel is a free country. You can take a tour of Jerusalem's Jewish sites with local or foreign guides who speak Arabic, English, Hebrew, and a hundred other languages. Migdal David on a typical day is a fair stand-in for the Tower of Babel, with guides simultaneously speaking Japanese, Italian and more languages than I can identify. More to the point, available tours are as ideologically diverse as they are linguistically diverse. This is not China or Jordan, where a government ministry regulates what the guides can say. You can take a Christian, Muslim, Jewish or anti-religion tour, you can take a poltically right-wing or a politically left-wing tour. You can take regularly organized tours of Jerusalem sponsored by groups that advocate the elimination of the State of Israel.

    But back to the language question. Does she or doesn't she?

    "A Brief Evaluation of Methodology and Use of Evidence in Facts on the Ground: Archaeological Practice and Territorial Self-Fashioning in Israeli Society by Nadia Abu El-Haj
    "Command of the Hebrew Language
    "El-Haj has undertaken to write an anthropology of Israeli attitudes towards archaeology and their role in "self-fashioning in Israeli society," yet there is no indication in the text that she either explored these topics in conversation with Israelis in a systematic way (she cites only conversations with tour guides) or by reading materials published in the national language. Indeed, there are indications in the text that she was not capable of doing so due to her apparent unfamiliarity with Hebrew. Even when following a source (p. 95), El-Haj repeatedly mistakes neve (settlement) for nahal (stream), misnaming, for example, Nahal Patish as Neve Patish (writing, roughly, the town of Patish in place of Patish Creek, a stream valley named for its hammer [patish]-shaped rock formation.)

    "On the next page (p. 96), she accuses Zionist pioneers of naming Tell Hai, Tell Yosef, and Tell ha-Shomer in a manner intended to mislead, that is, by implying that these new villages were built on tells, that is, on sites "of the remains of ancient settlements." El-Haj not only condemns such misappropriation of the word tell but asserts that the government Committee on Place Names (Va'adt ha-Shemot) "insisted" that "such improper terminological uses could not be continued."

    "Throughout this remarkable passage, Abu El-Haj appears to be entirely unaware that tell (tel) is a common Hebrew word meaning both "hill" and "artificial hill created by the remains of an ancient settlement." A direct translation of Tel Aviv, for example, is Hill of Spring, a hopeful name for a city that makes no pretense to antiquity. El-Haj's assertion that the names of these towns were condemned by the Va'ad ha-Shemot is sheer untruth.

    "A lack of familiarity with the language of a nation disqualifies a scholar from attempting certain projects. Lack of Hebrew disqualifies a scholar from undertaking a technical discussion of Hebrew and Arabic place-naming."
    http://phibetacons.nationalreview.com/post/?q=YjZhNzE1ODRmYzg4M2VkZGVmMzc3Njg0MzMwMWM2ZGQ=

    Readers of Facts on the Ground with a working knowledge of Hebrew understandably come away with the impression that Nadia Abu El Haj lacks a working knowledge of Hebrew. If she does have command of Hebrew sufficient to interview Israelis and read Israeli newspapers and books, she ought to have done so before pretending to publish a study that "analyzes the significance of archaeology to the Israeli state and society."


    August 19, 2007, Paula Stern
    http://www.paulasays.com/articles/nadia_el_haj/does_nadia_abu_el_haj_know_hebrew.html

  • SIV||

    the cool, rational, understated thought of Single Issue Voter?

    I'd like to thank all my fans........

    Archaeology is a worthy area of study, but despite using science in inquiry and analysis, it is not a science. As we are taught in Anthro 101 archaeology is but a subset of Cultural Anthropology......I rest my case.

  • Underzog||

    Btw... Jesse. When you say you have no brief for al Haj; read, the so-called Palestinian terrorist cause -- methinks thou doth protest too much!

    Your panicky denials remind of how this very same Hit & Run accused Michelle Malkin of causing some dyke to commit suicide while at the same time saying they weren't accusing Michelle Malkin of doing such a thing.

    Do you think there is anyone outside of your doped up Rhoemites that you're fooling?

    Hit & Run isn't accusing Michelle Malkin of near murder and Hit & Run doesn't salivate over the phony Palestinian cause; i.e. the destruction of the zionist entity.

    Yeah.... Right!

    "There's no need to fear; Underzog is here!" (and don't forget the "Underdog" movie)

  • SIV||

    This thread is amusing, I shouldn't have skipped it based on my disinterest in Holy Land Arch and Academic/political disputes.

    anon,

    We are talking about someone who writes about archaeology, but who does not know a power arm from a bulldozer

    Power arm? Is that what we call a backhoe or track hoe?...also known as an excavator.
    Well she is an academic not a field archaeologist.

    What if the tenure committee itself is composed of highly politicized post-modernists some of whom have taken public anti-Israel positions?

    Are there any liberal arts committees this charge doesn't apply to?

    In the instance that has become somewhat notorious, Abu El Haj accuses an individual highly regarded , politically left-wing archaeologist, David Ussishkin, of bulldozing non-Jewish artifacts at the dig at Jezreel. She bases this accusation on a coversation with anonymous "archaeologists and student volunteers." This is an extraordinary charge to level. A high crime and misdemeanor in the archaeological profession - if it were true.

    I know next to nothing of things in Israel but it is routine to for archaeologists remove cultural deposits to get to what they really want to study. They could be written off as out of context, redundant or otherwise not worthy.
    An archaeologist wants to use limited time and budget to answer his research questions and not waste it messing around with another component.
    Politics need not be involved at all.

  • ||

    unterzog,

    Your panicky denials remind of how this very same Hit & Run accused Michelle Malkin of causing some dyke to commit suicide while at the same time saying they weren't accusing Michelle Malkin of doing such a thing.

    Damn I missed that one here.Michelle Malkin, Nancy Grace, too bad Jeff Goldstein doesn't have a future in Cable News.........Yet!

  • Underzog||

    Of course this so-called Palestinian archeologist tells the truth like the rest of the Arabs. These so-called Palestinians have magical powers and they can even rise from the dead after the so-called Jenin massacre.

    And to prove it, this Youtube video/pallywood production shows the amazing, magical powers of the "Palestinians."

    "There's no need to fear; Underzog is here!" (and dont' forget the "Underzog" movie, too)

  • Timothy||

    I think universities could save a fair amount of money by cutting whatever B-school nonsense folks like Mr. Corning major in and leaving understanding economics to people who can do math.

  • dhex||


    Archaeology is a worthy area of study, but despite using science in inquiry and analysis, it is not a science. As we are taught in Anthro 101 archaeology is but a subset of Cultural Anthropology......I rest my case.


    what's your case again?

  • Les||

    Of course this so-called Palestinian archeologist tells the truth like the rest of the Arabs.

    I take it we're all ignoring this stupid bigot, right? Just checking.

  • iih||

    Les:

    Yep, and s/he was rebuked a couple of times already. As someone mentioned above, he is a well known troll.

  • ||

    I have had literally hundreds of conversations with my Israeli brethren regarding "whose" land the Israeli political State is currently encamped on, and at some point or another, one of my brethren will drag out something like, "Your argument that the Palestinians have any right to our land would be more satisfying if you also approved of the rights your American Indians hold to the land occupied by Americans."

    My retort to them, every time, as it is in this situation, is, "I'm not saying they do not have a right to the land, however they were not strong or brutal enough to retain it, so my distant ancestors forcibly took it from them. Such is the nature of war and conquest."

    Sure, Jewish folks have lived all over the world, including places like the currently designated Israeli State. Sure, there are archaeologically-available artifacts from dozens of cultures in that same region.

    In support of the thought process (and not specifically the current tome by Abu El Haj), what's with all of this "Our Land" crap? Yeah, it's currently under Jewish control, because y'all used what God gave you and managed to seize the opportunity presented to you at the end of WWII. To wit (http://www.mfa.gov.il/):

    "On May 14, 1948, on the day in which the British Mandate over Palestine expired, the Jewish People's Council gathered at the Tel Aviv Museum, and approved the following proclamation, declaring the establishment of the State of Israel. The new state was recognized that night by the United States and three days later by the USSR."

    Politically expedient? You bet. Great timing? Couldn't have been better! Based on scientific research and vetted by a panel of knowledgeable experts in historical land occupation and territorial ownership, or even by a preponderance of the existing archaeological evidence? Not bloody likely.

    It's like "finding" WMD in Iraq after our forces have been on the ground for a year (didn't happen, but I'm just saying...). History is being written by the victorious. In this case, the Israelis. (Not to be confused with the religious designation; "Jews") If they want to use archaeological findings to "prove" their "ownership" of a piece of turf, and in so doing deny any and all others the opportunity to have a say in how that lump of dirt is managed ... happens all the time.

    Just don't get your panties up in a bunch when someone points out that's what is happening. No sense in denying it ... it happened. (Sound familiar?)

    Good for goose = good for gander

  • ||

    BTW ... it's true about the "no posts seem to appear outside of work hours" rumour ... clearly ... ;)

  • Realty||

    As you right wing hippies are nihilists and have the proclivities of Ernst Rhoem, of course the zionist entity and Jews themselves should be wiped out. It must be a gas (pun intended) for you doped up clowns to even think about it. However, my Libertarian buddies aren't so open about it after the whithering criticism your movement suffered at the pen of Peter Schwartz.

  • ||

    Richard "Little Dickie" Silverstein's Veracity and Credibility can best be assessed by taking a look at
    www.richardsilversteins.blogspot.com

  • WEVS1||

    "But when these fellows systematically and selectively go after anti-Israeli or anti-America scholars it's pretty clear that its not bad scholarship and academic responsibility in general they are pushing but rather viewpoint discrimination."

    Where have you been for the past 30 years? Conservatives have routinely railed against post-modernism, "cultural studies", and the various other academic fads that they feel have cheapened the value of a college education. Worse, in the eyes of conservatives, these fads and the frauds who perpretrate them promote anti-Americanism. This is a fairly common conservarive perspective.

    Did you forget about the "culture wars" and all the debates over "multiculturalism" in the 1980s?

    Nadia Abu El Haj: Charlatan Anthropologist
    http://newcentrist.wordpress.com/2007/08/17/nadia-abu-el-haj-charlatan-anthropologist/

  • ||

    WEVS1-Sorry, but for the past 30 years I have seen conservatives rail agains every institution that does not tell them exactly what they want to hear. When they get in power they do not create "fair" media like the bitched about but rather FOXNEWS type propoganda. So I am less than sympathetic to poor old conservatives fighting to be heard...

    You assume, like yourself, that we here at H&R are good little conservatives who will be told what our marching orders by the GOP directives that send the faxes to our favorite pundits every week, therefore we will be well schooled in our talking points. Is your exhortation of the "culture wars: of the 1980's supposed to rally us to your blind, stupid allegiance? Good luck, buddy.

    You're post, which is supposed I guess to prove something, is beyond pathetic. Many of us are academics, and we can look at many different reviews of the young Dr's work here from academic setting. We'll do so in an honest way, without always first clicking on some Likudian blog that is supposed to prove somethng. Don't you feel ashamed at not trying to read the other side fairly?
    Even if it is a mixed bag, she may be working in a lively controversy and should be granted tenure.

    Go back to bullying supposed "anti-Semites" (meaning anyong who dares disagree with Israeli policy, though many worldwidw Jews do the same). There are bridges for folks like ya to live under...

  • WEVS1||

    "You assume, like yourself, that we here at H&R are good little conservatives who will be told what our marching orders by the GOP directives that send the faxes to our favorite pundits every week, therefore we will be well schooled in our talking points. Is your exhortation of the "culture wars: of the 1980's supposed to rally us to your blind, stupid allegiance? Good luck, buddy."

    No, you dolt. Simply bringing up something you seem to have forgot. My point was that conservatives have been against these things-multiculturalism, postmodernism, etc.-for a long time. It is not a recent development, it's been going on for 30 years now at least.

    For an academic or reasonable person, you make a lot of foolish assumptions. You remind me of Bush, "either with us or against us," and all the rest of that nonsense. I've never voted Republican in my life and have been critical of Israeli policies in the occupied territories for a long, long, time.

  • ||

    I found this on another blog, very funny.

    The Little Dickie Silverstein Marching Song

    I am a little kapo,
    It makes my mommy mad,
    Cause when I am a kapo,
    Those Zionists get sad!

    I celebrate the jihad,
    and terror all the while,
    I fill my blog and web page,
    With loud salutes of Sieg Heil!

    I want to see them Zraelis,
    All dumped out in the sea,
    My swastika a waving,
    Cause everything’s bout me.

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