Monday, October 01, 2007

HOLY LAND FOUNDATION TRIAL: a word from academia

With this post I am sure to land myself squarely in the middle of the circle of those who are called "anti-Semitic."

If our public discourse has indeed sunk to the level of trying to discredit a person's ideas by calling her a nasty name, so be it. I teach my students that the ad hominem attack (one form of which is name-calling) is the lowest form of discourse. If anyone wants to call me a nasty name, that will be their problem.

Looking for a cheap copy of Matthew Levitt's book on the gossip about Hamas, I went to the Yale University Press website. I found the book and decided even the paperback edition just out is too expensive.

But I discovered a much more important reality there. Matthew Levitt's book is in the section of the Yale University Press online catalogue titled, "Jewish Studies." Is a book about Hamas about anything "Jewish?" And then I noticed the other books in that section under "Jewish Studies." One was about the Warsaw Ghetto, and one was about the Six-Day War, legitimate enough for Jewish readers to claim as their own. But the others were Knowing the Enemy: Jihadist Ideology and the War on Terror, by Mary Habeck and Modern Iran: Roots and Results of Revolution, Updated Edition, by Nikki R. Keddie. And the last is Islamic Imperialism: A History, by Efraim Karsh. Two-thirds of the book in the section "Jewish Studies," in a sub category of "Israel and the Middle East," are about Arabic or Muslim peoples, and all are negative with respect to Islam.

Call me anti-Semitic (especially if you mean I don't approve of the way Israel operates in the world) if you must. However, I am curious why a book on the supposed inner workings of a Palestinian movement (in reality Levitt's mostly-fanciful writing on the subject) is part of "Jewish Studies." I am curious why a book on the Iranian revolution and its aftermath falls in the category of "Jewish Studies. I am curious why a book misrepresenting the Islamic idea of "jihad" is a "Jewish Study." And I don't exactly see the logic that makes Islamic "imperialism" any more a Jewish question than it is a Spanish question.

The "blurb" for the book on "jihad" asks the question, "What kind of thinking enables terrorists to justify unprovoked destruction and the murder of innocent people?" Perhaps that's the answer. "What kind of thinking enables the Israelis to justify unprovoked destruction and the murder of innocent [Palestinians]?"

Or perhaps the reason all of these books on Islam, or on questionable theories of Islam, are in the "Jewish Studies" section of the Yale University Press catalogue is that readers are supposed to see the entire world through one lens and only one lens.