Two of the most radical voices in Middle East studies, John Esposito and Joel Beinin, have just published articles attacking Martin Kramer and myself. They are noteworthy for their commonalities.
John Esposito of Georgetown University tells an interviewer for Egypt's Al-Ahram newspaper that "if you look at the track record of the likes of Kramer and Pipes, do they ever criticise the Sharon government? I would say that they are not arguing for what is in the best interests of America. They are, rather, arguing for what is in the best interests of Israel." Joel Beinin of Stanford University wrote an article for Le Monde Diplomatique's website under the rubric "Tel Aviv's Influence on American Institutions" that accuses the two of us (plus Steven Emerson) of seeking "to impose an anti-Arab and anti-Muslim orthodoxy on Americans."
These accusations prompt several thoughts.
- This sort of slander is typical of the left; bereft of arguments, it engages in ad hominem attacks. In contrast, see how Campus Watch wrote about Esposito and how Kramer wrote about Beinin - not an insult or aspersion to be found.
- One has to criticize the Sharon government to prove one's patriotic bona fides? The logic here is odd. Extending it, need one also criticize the Islamic Republic of Iran or the Palestinian Authority to establish oneself as a loyal American?
- The "dual loyalty" charge fits into the prevailing ethos of antisemitism on the campuses, one so deep that even a Jew like Beinin buys into it.
- These attacks contain the callow apologetics (Esposito whines that "when they quote my writings, they quote me out of context") and factual errors (Campus Watch, Beinin writes, "has now been removed from the web") that connoisseurs of Middle East studies have come to expect from its practioners. (For more on Esposito's problems with the facts, see the late-breaking story of his misquoting Bernard Lewis, as investigated by the History News Network.)
- That these intra-mural comments appeared only in non-American publications suggests that there is not much of a U.S. market for the folderol Esposito and Beinin are peddling.
- The insidious phrase "Tel Aviv's influence" comes straight out of Arab propaganda. Note: it's not "Israel's Influence" (that would recognize Israel), nor "Jerusalem's influence" (that would recognize Jerusalem as the capital). Rather, it's "Tel Aviv's influence." Well, at least it's not the "Zionist entity's influence."
(July 17, 2003)
Aug. 11, 2003 update: Poor Beinin. He eventually clued in to Campus Watch still being alive (see point 4 above), so he surreptitiously changed the text on Le Monde Diplomatique's website to reflect this fact. Happily, Campus Watch preserved his original text and has it posted at on its site.
Feb. 10, 2004 update: Actually (in reference to point 2), I do criticize the Sharon government, in fact, quite often of late. Here are three recent examples: "Reading Sharon's Mind" on Dec. 23, "Hezbollah's Victory, Israel's Decline" on Feb. 3, and "Sharon Loses His Way On Israeli 'Settlements'" today. But, seeing that I take Sharon to task for being too weak vis-à-vis Israel's enemies, I suspect that these analyses won't please Esposito & Beinin. Sorry about that, guys. And if Sharon goes ahead with a unilateral withdrawal from Gaza, I expect to write many more critiques of his policies.
Aug. 15, 2005 update: He did and I did. My writings on this subject are collected at "Bibliography – My Writings on the Gaza Withdrawal."
Oct. 17, 2007 update: I have also not been shy about criticizing the Bush administration's policy on Israel (as well as on Iraq, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, democratization, the war on terror, and much else). For my oeuvre on this subject, see "Bibliography – My Writings on George W. Bush and the Arab-Israeli Conflict." I wonder, would Esposito & Beinin take me to task for daring to disagree with my own government? That's something that they, of course, would never do.
July 28, 2008 update: First, American leftists criticize me for not criticizing the Israeli government enough; and now an Israeli academic informs me that as an American, I have no right to criticize his government! For details, see "May an American Comment on Israel?"
Comment: Few topics are quite so fraught with emotions as U.S.-Israel relations.