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

April 1 2015

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.

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Read more at Commentary

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

Israeli Indecision on the Palestinian Issue Is a Sign of Strength, Not Weakness

Oct. 11 2019

In their recent book Be Strong and of Good Courage: How Israel’s Most Important Leaders Shaped Its Destiny, Dennis Ross and David Makovsky—who both have had long careers as Middle East experts inside and outside the U.S. government—analyze the “courageous decisions” made by David Ben-Gurion, Menachem Begin, Yitzḥak Rabin, and Ariel Sharon. Not coincidentally, three of these four decisions involved territorial concessions. Ross and Makovsky use the book’s final chapter to compare their profiles in courage with Benjamin Netanyahu’s cautious approach on the Palestinian front. Calling this an “almost cartoonish juxtaposition,” Haviv Rettig Gur writes:

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Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli history, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict