How the Field of Middle East Studies Has Muddled American Foreign Policy

Michael Rubin argues that the current state of Middle East studies in U.S. universities bears some responsibility for the present crisis in the region. Much of this can be traced back to the destructive ideological legacy of Columbia University’s Edward Said, whose best-known arguments licensed others “to prioritize polemic and politics above fact and scholarly rigor.” Rubin explains:

Rashid Khalidi, a close friend of Obama from their mutual University of Chicago days, now holds a chair named in Said’s honor at Columbia. He has consistently argued that politicians and diplomats do not listen to those like himself who claim expertise in the Middle East. . . . Khalidi, as with many others in his field, both sought to prioritize and to amplify the importance of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.

At the same time, he appears obsessed with post-colonial theory, [according to which] American power is corrosive, and the road to Middle East peace runs through Jerusalem. Likewise, cultural equivalence predominates: what the West calls terrorism is not so black and white. Hateful ideologies? They are simply the result of grievance. America should apologize and understand and accommodate itself to the position of the other if it is committed truly to peace.

Barack Obama entered office having internalized such beliefs. Rather than act as leader of the free world, he approached the Middle East as a zoning commissioner. What he lacked in understanding, he compensated for with arrogance—dispensing with decades of accumulated wisdom and experience of predecessors both Democrat and Republican. Rather than jumpstarting the peace process, Obama succeeded in setting it back decades.

Read more at Commentary

More about: Academia, Barack Obama, Edward Said, Middle East, Politics & Current Affairs, Rashid Khalidi, U.S. Foreign policy

Only Hamas’s Defeat Can Pave the Path to Peace

Opponents of the IDF’s campaign in Gaza often appeal to two related arguments: that Hamas is rooted in a set of ideas and thus cannot be defeated militarily, and that the destruction in Gaza only further radicalizes Palestinians, thus increasing the threat to Israel. Rejecting both lines of thinking, Ghaith al-Omar writes:

What makes Hamas and similar militant organizations effective is not their ideologies but their ability to act on them. For Hamas, the sustained capacity to use violence was key to helping it build political power. Back in the 1990s, Hamas’s popularity was at its lowest point, as most Palestinians believed that liberation could be achieved by peaceful and diplomatic means. Its use of violence derailed that concept, but it established Hamas as a political alternative.

Ever since, the use of force and violence has been an integral part of Hamas’s strategy. . . . Indeed, one lesson from October 7 is that while Hamas maintains its military and violent capabilities, it will remain capable of shaping the political reality. To be defeated, Hamas must be denied that. This can only be done through the use of force.

Any illusions that Palestinian and Israeli societies can now trust one another or even develop a level of coexistence anytime soon should be laid to rest. If it can ever be reached, such an outcome is at best a generational endeavor. . . . Hamas triggered war and still insists that it would do it all again given the chance, so it will be hard-pressed to garner a following from Palestinians in Gaza who suffered so horribly for its decision.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict