How Anti-Zionism Infected Middle East Studies

Although it is the extremes of campus anti-Israel activism that most often make headlines, Hussein Aboubakr observes that belief that the Jewish state is demonic is an unquestioned axiom in many academic departments:

[T]he anti-Zionist stance . . . has become a supposition of most social-science scholarship treating the modern Middle East or modern Muslim societies. This, in significant part, is an uncritical acceptance of the Palestinian and Arab nationalist narrative as the historical account of the beginning of Middle Eastern political modernity, which is often annexed into a post-colonial anti-Western ideological perspective—resting on a historical condemnation of capitalism as the ideological source of all evils of Western imperialism—that is so deeply entrenched in the social sciences today.

[T]he hostility towards Israel is not an outcome of an analytical process but a presupposition of a scholarly construct with coercive contents that delegitimatize alternative views. It is impossible to understand such hostility without understanding the ideological worldview of which it is a part and is the default position of mainstream Middle East scholarship. This has led to a situation where the assumption that Israel is a colonialist oppressive power is often used as a starting point to construct further analytical structures unrelated to Israel or the Middle East. Israel has become merely a point of reference used for comparative purposes that indirectly passes the condemnatory judgment on Israel to the students.

An example of this would be how in a theoretical scholarly discussion about state coercive power and democracy in The Dark Side of Democracy, a book by the UCLA professor Michael Mann, Israel is casually and indirectly accused of murder and compared unfavorably to the Soviet Union and socialist Yugoslavia. . . . Suffice it to say, for Mann’s arguments to proceed, the student has to accept his presuppositions and his examples uncritically.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Anti-Zionism, Israel on campus

An American Withdrawal from Iraq Would Hand Another Victory to Iran

Since October 7, the powerful network of Iran-backed militias in Iraq have carried out 120 attacks on U.S. forces stationed in the country. In the previous year, there were dozens of such attacks. The recent escalation has led some in the U.S. to press for the withdrawal of these forces, whose stated purpose in the country is to stamp out the remnants of Islamic State and to prevent the group’s resurgence. William Roberts explains why doing so would be a mistake:

American withdrawal from Iraq would cement Iran’s influence and jeopardize our substantial investment into the stabilization of Iraq and the wider region, threatening U.S. national security. Critics of the U.S. military presence argue that [it] risks a regional escalation in the ongoing conflict between Israel and Iran. However, in the long term, the U.S. military has provided critical assistance to Iraq’s security forces while preventing the escalation of other regional conflicts, such as clashes between Turkey and Kurdish groups in northern Iraq and Syria.

Ultimately, the only path forward to preserve a democratic, pluralistic, and sovereign Iraq is through engagement with the international community, especially the United States. Resisting Iran’s takeover will require the U.S. to draw international attention to the democratic backsliding in the country and to be present and engage continuously with Iraqi civil society in military and non-military matters. Surrendering Iraq to Iran’s agents would not only squander our substantial investment in Iraq’s stability; it would greatly increase Iran’s capability to threaten American interests in the Levant through its influence in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon.

Read more at Providence

More about: Iran, Iraq, U.S. Foreign policy