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Monday, May 07, 2007

Nadia El Haj at Barnard

Paula Says follows the story of Nadia El Haj, a professor at Barnard College in New York City who denies that the ancient Jewish or Israelite kingdoms existed. "What was considered to have been ancient Jewish national existence and sovereignty in their homeland" is "a tale best understood as the modern nation’s origin myth… transported into the realm of history." The Hasmonean and Davidic dynasties are a mere "belief," an "ideological assertion," a "/pure /political fabrication."

Hat Tip: Mrs. Carl in Jerusalem
This absurd and unsupported assertion is the theme of Facts on the Ground; Archaeological Practice and Territorial Self-Fashioning in Israeli Society by Nadia Abu El Haj, Assistant Professor of Anthroplogy.

Although it my seen incredible that a book could commit a more flagrant violation of scholarly standards than to dismiss the vast body of archaeological and documentary evidence for the existence of the ancient Jewish and Israelite kingdoms, Abu El Haj manages to do so when she excuses the deliberate destruction of archaeological sites when it is done by Palestinians for political purposes. In Abu El Haj's view, deliberately destroying ancient buildings is not to be condemned, it is to be "analyzed as a form of resistance to the Israeli state."

The deliberate destruction of archaeological artifacts, "Needs to be understood in relation to a colonial-national history in which modern political rights have been substantiated in and expanded through the material signs of historic presence. In destroying the tomb, Palestinian demonstrators eradicated one ‘fact on the ground."


Below, you will find excerpts from and links to scholarly reviews of this book. Her work has been well received by scholars who share Abu El Haj's rejection of scientific methods, commitment to postcolonial politics, and hatred of Israel. She is currently under consideration for tenure.
Read it all. In a later post, Paula writes:
The decision on whether to give tenure to Nadia Abu El Haj is likely to be made in the next few weeks. I believe that it is important for alumnae not only to be aware of, but to express opinions on such decisions because a college is a community. The college we love could not exist without the support of graduates dedicated to its welfare, no more than it could exist without its distinguished faculty, or without each fall's new class of students.

The Barnard community is threatened when the college appoints faculty who hold ideals inimical to the principles to which the college is dedicated. Barnard has always upheld the highest standards of scholarship. That is what makes all of us so intensely proud to have graduated from Barnard, and not from a school where lesser standards prevail. Those feelings, as well as the future of the integrity of Barnard itself stands on trial.

If the college grants tenure to Nadia Abu El Haj, it will be conferring the honor of a Barnard Professorship on a young woman whose scholarship does not warrant recognition or honor from our alma mater. Her sole book is a study of archaeological practice in Israel. It is a thinly veiled political attack and so markedly deficient that Professor William Dever, the senior American archaeologist now digging in Israel, has called her book "faulty, misleading and dangerous." I append one of the many scholarly evaluations of her work.

If Barnard grants tenure to Nadia Abu El Haj, it will have upheld two ideas that most graduates of the college find abhorrent.

First, it will have granted the honor of tenure to a woman who has publicly and repeatedly declared her commitment to the destruction of the Jewish State. Nadia Abu El Haj is not a critic of Israel. She is dedicated to eliminating the state of Israel. While I understand that some members of the faculty do not consider such views as a bar to an academic appointment, many Barnard graduates do. In my opinion Ms. Abu El Haj's views on the fate of Israel and its seven million citizens are so abhorrent as to make her presence on the faculty morally repugnant to decent people. Let me also tell you that I am one of those citizens, as are my children and many Barnard graduates who have come to live here in the last few years. This is a personal affront to those of us who desperately want Barnard to step back at this moment, and do the right thing by denying this woman tenure.

Second, Barnard will have conferred tenure on a woman who rejects the principle that scholarly research must be based on evidence. Abu El Haj proudly announces in her book that she rejects all "commitment to scientific methods," preferring post structuralism, philosophical critiques of foundationalism, Marxism and critical theory… in response to specific postcolonial political movements.” This, of course, enables her to write a study of Israeli archaeology upholding the most absurd idea that the existence of ancient Israelite kingdoms is a "pure political fabrication." She single-handedly attempts to suggest that the destruction of Jerusalem in the year 70 C.E. was not a result of the Roman invasion (as is commonly held by approximately...all the world). This leaves El Haj to suggest that perhaps it was the Jews themselves that destroyed their own city. No evidence is given for this ridiculous claim and since El Haj has rejected scientific methodology, she is now free to ignore all known evidence that counters her wild imaginations.
Read the whole thing.

I note from her description that Paula and Mrs. Carl in Jerusalem graduated in the same class at Barnard.

Those who wish to protest (and especially those who are Barnard alumnae) should contact:

President Judith R. Shapiro
Barnard College
Office of the President, 109 Milbank Hall
3009 Broadway
New York, NY 10027

Cameran L. Mason
Vice President of Institutional Advancement
(212) 854-2001

Marilyn Chin '74
Director of Alumnae Affairs
(212) 854-2005


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