Juan Cole, Nation’s Premier Middle East Scholar, Victim of Culture Wars

Juan Cole at the University of Michigan is one of the nation's leading intellectuals and scholars. His blog, Informed Comment, is one of the more lucid, balanced and courageous exemplars of the genre.

Dr Cole is frequently a guest on the prestigious Newshour with Jim Lehrer and was recommended by two academic departments for an appointment at Yale University. Below is an account of how right-wing groups sabotaged his appointment due to a well-organized effort to censure and punish Middle East scholars who are construed as being not favourably disposed to equating Israeli and American national security interests. Scholars who criticise Israeli occupation of Palestine and are unwilling to surrender critical thinking in their analysis of Middle East politics, are targeted by enemies of academic freedom who wish to impose a rigid ideological agenda on the academy..

Professor Cole had critiqued an article I wrote on Iraq: The Logic of Withdrawal that appeared on the History News Network. His analysis was critical but constructive and certainly did not endorse my demand for immediate disengagement of American military forces from Iraq. I examined his commentary on my article for my blog and used it in my American Foreign Relations class.

University of Michigan’s Juan Cole: Fiery blog may have blocked Yale position.

"Juan Cole, one of the country’s top Middle East scholars, was poised for the biggest step of his career.

A tenured professor at the University of Michigan, Cole was tapped earlier this year by a Yale University search committee to teach about the modern Middle East. In two separate votes in May, Cole was approved by both the sociology and history departments, the latter the university’s largest.

The only remaining hurdle was the senior appointments committee, also known as the tenure committee, a group consisting of about a half-dozen professors from various disciplines across the university.

Last week, however, in what is shaping up as the latest in a series of heated battles over the political affiliations of Middle Eastern studies professors, the tenure committee voted down Cole’s nomination. Several Yale faculty members described the decision to overrule the votes of the individual departments as “highly unusual.”

Dr Cole e-mailed me the full story:

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