More Columbia University tricks


Martin Kramer's Sandstorm has picked—up on yet another trick being employed by Columbia University:

Last month, Columbia University announced with much fanfare that it would establish a chair of Israel studies. Four generous trustees threw in $3 million to make it happen—and to help extricate the university from its crisis. Michael Stanislawski, a professor of Jewish history, will conduct the search. The New York Sun reported today that the search committee has been formed. When the reporter read me the names, I burst out laughing.

The committee includes
Ira Katznelson, chair of the ad hoc (a.k.a. "whitewash") committee that investigated student grievances; Dan Miron, a long—suffering Hebrew lit professor in the Middle East department; and Karen Barkey, an authority on the Ottoman empire. So far, reasonable. But then add this to the mix: Rashid Khalidi, the ubiquitous Edward Said Professor; and lesser—known Lila Abu—Lughod, a Palestinian American anthropologist and signer and supporter of Columbia's divestment petition. Abu—Lughod, who's writing a book on the Palestinian experience in 1948, has just published a longing letter to the departed Professor Said. "I sit here on the earthen terrace with the sunset warming the pharaonic temple across the field, wondering how to carry on your work. The first step, I know, is to keep talking about Palestine."

Kramer sees the irony:

The inclusion of Khalidi and Abu—Lughod on the search committee is perverse. Edward Said used to complain that the Palestinians needed "permission to narrate" their story. At Columbia, the situation is reversed: Israel can't be narrated without the permission of the great Palestinian mandarins. They must be appeased, satisfied, propitiated.

And we know what price they will exact. The incumbent of the new chair must be someone who freely acknowledges Israel's sins, perhaps even its original sin. It must be someone at home in the self—excoriating world of post—Zionism. It must be someone willing to consider, in all seriousness, whether the "one—state solution" is the only one left—what is called in the code "Israel/Palestine." (Perhaps that should be the designation of the chair: Israel/Palestine studies.)

Ed Lasky    4 29 05