Nadia Abu El-Haj Academic Freedom Case Subject of New Yorker Article

Barnard College Professor Nadia Abu El-Haj, who was another tenure target of the Zionist thought police, is profiled in a brilliant,  magisterial article in the New Yorker. Entitled The Petition: Israel, Palestine, and a tenure battle at Barnard, its author is Jane Kramer and it appears in the April 14, 2008 issue on pp. 50-59.

 Anthropology Professor Abu El-Haj

I addressed her egregious auto-da-fé when I spoke at DePaul University’s academic freedom conference on  February 2, 2008:

While Barnard College anthropology Professor Nadia Abu El-Haj was granted tenure this past fall, her seminal monograph, Facts on the Ground: Archaeological Practice and Territorial Self-Fashioning in Israeli Society generated websites, blogs and online petitions that tried to use virtual referenda to deny her tenure; there were pro-tenure online efforts as well.

Dan Rabinowitz and Ronen Shamir of Tel Aviv University in a recent article, “Who Got to Decide on Nadia Abu El-Haj’s Tenure,” Academe, named Paula Stern, a Barnard University alumnus, living in an Israeli settlement in occupied Palestine, as having initiated the “Deny Nadia Abu El-Haj Tenure” petition. The authors report primarily American Jews signed the anti-tenure petition. Professor Neve Gordon of Ben-Gurion University, in his remarks at the October 12, 2007 University of Chicago academic freedom conference in Rockefeller Chapel, revealed that most of the opposition to his receiving tenure emanated from American Jews, not Ben Gurion University or other Israeli academics. Professors Gordon, Rabinowitz and Shamir affirm it is easier for Israeli academics to criticise Israel than it is for Americans.

To quote Rabinowitz and Shamir:

To put it bluntly, their sensitivity [and they are referring to American Jews] to critical inquiry that questions the practices and sensibilities of Israel and Israelis is much greater than anything we have experienced in the Israeli academic, public, or political arenas. Israeli academia, by and large, is fairly tolerant when it comes to critical thinking in the social sciences and the humanities… Israeli academic institutions are tolerant when it comes to critical thinking voiced by Jewish Israelis… Not so in the United States, where the prevailing climate, especially among Zionist Americans, tends to label dissenting voices-regardless of the scientific merit they reflect-as anti-Semitic or anti-Zionist and to try to suppress them.

I also briefly referred to her case at an academic freedom conference at New York University on February 23, 2008:

There also emerged an online petition drive to deny Professor Nadia Abu El-Haj tenure at Barnard College. External constituencies chose not to merely critique or denounce her, Facts on the Ground: Archaeological Practice and Territorial Self-Fashioning in Israeli Society, but as enemies of modernism, to silence the author by denying her an appointment in academia. They failed in this instance but are not deterred in their anti-modernist assault on the academy.

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