This page includes, in addition to news about historians, news about political scientists, economists, law professors, and others who write about history. For a comprehensive list of historians' obituaries, go here.
As his latest book, "1776," arrives in stores, he's been thinking a lot about the birth of the country and what people know about it. The kids at Josiah Haynes seem pretty on top of their studies, even though not all know why 1776 is important. But McCullough worries that the United States is in a deep and dangerous crisis...
..."I find it terribly sad and worrisome when I meet people who come here from elsewhere in the world and know more about American history than people I talk to on college and university campuses," he said during an interview at the historic Longfellow House in Cambridge, Mass...
..."I have been asked countless times why there is this
vogue for books on the founding fathers," says Chernow, whose next book
will be a biography of Washington. "I have contrived all sorts of fancy
and esoteric explanations for the phenomenon, but I could also make the argument
that the answer boils
down to two words: David McCullough."
John Ehrman, author of The Eighties, in a comment posted on CNET, the conservative list run by Richard Jensen (5-27-05):
How did I come to write The Eighties as I did? It's a little complicated, but probably no more so than for any other writer.
My main purpose was to answer a question that had nagged at me for some time. When I started on the project, in 1995, the 1980s had the reputation of being the "decade of greed," when the few did well and the many did badly. But, as I looked back at my experiences during the 80s, that didn't make sense to me--I had gotten out of school, gone to work, made a little money, bought a condo, and gotten married. Things seemed pretty good to me and, as I looked around me, they looked pretty good for most others. And so my question: was I just one of the lucky few, or were things better than generally portrayed? This led, of course, to more questions, and lots of research.
The book focuses on a few aspects of the 1980s: how conservatism displaced liberalism in American politics, how the economy changed, and who gained and who lost. I chose this approach, rather than trying for a comprehensive narrative, because I'm not very good at writing narrative and it allowed me to concentrate on the topic that I thought most important and most interesting. Another reason for looking at only selected parts of the 80s was external--Yale imposed a strict word limit. Like Greg Schneider [who reviewed me book], almost everyone has noticed that there is nothing on foreign policy in the book. That was intentional from the start, as I wanted to focus strictly on domestic matters and, anyway, once the word limit came into play foreign affairs simply could not fit. Nonetheless, I believe I cover enough important issues, and structure the book well enough to give a solid overall portrait of the era.
My research left me with a great respect for economists, and I think we have much to learn from them. Much of the story of the 1980s is economic, and so I spent a lot of time with the American Economic Review (AER), Journal of Economic Perspectives, Journal of Economic Literature (JEL), and the publications of the Federal Reserve Board and its banks. Economists seem to be much better organized than historians--they seem to cluster their important work in fewer journals than we do, and they seem to do a very good job of addressing important (and interesting) questions, rather than drifting off into the obscure. The thorough review articles in the JEL, and the short papers in the May issue of the AER each year give the layman a single entry point to summarize the literature and understand the state of research on a given topic. Individual economists also post their papers on their web sites much more than historians do, which makes their latest work much more accessible. It would be nice if historians organized themselves as well.
Nigel Farndale, in the Sunday Telegraph (5-22-05):
Among the Chinese artefacts in Jung Chang's Notting Hill drawing-room there is a large terracotta horse and a 19th-century painting of "big noses" - as she was taught to call foreigners - kow-towing to an emperor in the Forbidden City. "They are to remind me of what he destroyed," the 53-year-old author says in her slightly guttural, Chinese-accented English.
The "he" referred to is Mao Tse-Tung, the subject of an 800-page biography Chang has spent the past 10 years researching and writing with her husband, the British historian Jon Halliday. It occurs to me that her waist-length mane of black hair might also be a reminder of, or rather reaction to, Mao: when Chang joined the Red Guard at 14 she was forced to chop off her plaits because long hair was considered bourgeois. "No, no," she says with a tight smile. "I just like long hair, and so does my husband."
She certainly has a brisk, no-nonsense way about her, this Jung Chang. And although she deploys an infectious giggle from time to time, she can come across as a little humourless and literal-minded, too. Her emotional guard is permanently up, one suspects, and this is completely understandable. The first half of her life was hard, marked by distrust and fear. Her parents were committed Communists who were, nevertheless, denounced as class traitors during the Cultural Revolution. Her mother was paraded through the streets with a derogatory placard around her neck. Her father was tortured and sent to a labour camp - where he went insane and died in 1975. Chang herself was exiled to the foothills of the Himalayas, where she worked first as a peasant in the fields and then as a steelworker in a factory before being "rehabilitated" and, unusually, allowed to study abroad.
So it was that, in 1978, she came to Britain to read linguistics for a doctorate at York University - and decided to stay on in self-imposed exile. After a visit from her mother 10 years later, she wrote a family memoir that was to change not only her life but also, arguably, the way China was perceived by the outside world. Wild Swans became the biggest-selling non-fiction paperback in publishing history - 10 million copies were sold and it was translated into 30 languages. When I ask her if she still has to pinch herself about the success of that book she gives a bluntly self-confident answer: "No. I can believe it."
Wild Swans is still banned in China; did this make it difficult for her to research her new book? "Yes and no. There was a top secret edict about me issued to Mao's inner circle in 1994. And some people were worried and declined to be interviewed. But most were not put off and they talked to us. ...
And is writing Mao her revenge?"I wouldn't say so. Revenge implies something personal. I wanted to write a biography that was fair and objective. Mao did not just do harm to me and my family, he did it to the whole of Chinese society."...
...The only sound in the room where McCullough works—a tiny book-lined shingled building, just 8 feet by 12—comes from the clack-clack-clack of a 1940 Royal manual typewriter, bought secondhand in White Plains, New York, in 1965. The setting is snug, almost claustrophobic, but it is here, in his backyard office on Martha's Vineyard, that McCullough's imagination roams through the American past, summoning the spirits of dead presidents and generals, resurrecting long-forgotten foot soldiers and re-creating the chaos and cannon fire of distant battles.
When McCullough looks up from his Royal, he can see the restored farmhouse where he has lived for 30 years with his wife, Rosalee. The house, McCullough says on a recent sun-splashed morning, "is part 18th century, part 19th and part 20th"—a good way to describe the canon of work he has created in this small studio office: award-winning books on subjects ranging from the Panama Canal and the Brooklyn Bridge to Theodore Roosevelt, Harry Truman and John Adams.
The pages that he pulls through the carriage of the typewriter—about four a day during prime writing season—have become the most widely read nonfiction of the age and made McCullough the central figure in a renaissance of popular history. From Ken Burns's epochal series "The Civil War" to "The American Experience," his baritone is the voice of the past for two generations of PBS viewers. And he is probably the only man in America who could inspire HBO to make a mini-series about John Adams.
Some professional historians find McCullough's work too safe and too smooth. A careful reading of his books, however, does not really support that academic critique. McCullough is the least cynical of writers, but he is also among the most clear-eyed. "History is not the story of heroes entirely," he says. "It is often the story of cruelty and injustice and shortsightedness. There are monsters, there is evil, there is betrayal. That's why people should read Shakespeare and Dickens as well as history—they will find the best, the worst, the height of noble attainment and the depths of depravity." In "1776," for instance, Washington is a great man—but his way of life, McCullough makes clear, is made possible by slavery.
There is an irony about McCullough: he is a wildly popular anachronism. In a nation of 24-hour cable and blogging, he speaks in warm, unaffected tones about the classic "Ben and Me," or about "Two Years Before the Mast," the first book he ever bought with his own money, or about how history teachers should use Gershwin in the classroom. "Reading history is good for all of us," he says, not surprisingly, perhaps, but his rationale is a fresh, somewhat bracing thought: "If you know history, you know that there is no such thing as a self-made man or self-made woman. We are shaped by people we have never met. Yes, reading history will make you a better citizen and more appreciative of the law, and of freedom, and of how the economy works or doesn't work, but it is also an immense pleasure—the way art is, or music is, or poetry is. And it's never stale."
Certainly not in McCullough's hands. Born in 1933, the son of the owner of an electrical-supply company in Pittsburgh, McCullough, the third of four boys, grew up in a largely vanished world, attending a private day school and graduating from Yale in 1955. He worked as a writer and editor at Time Inc., then went to Washington to be part of the New Frontier. He landed a post at Edward R. Murrow's United States Information Agency. Standing with Rosalee outside his writing studio, recounting the story of his job interview, he recalls being asked what he knew about Arabs. "Sir, I don't know anything at all about Arabs," McCullough replied, only to be told: "Well, you'll learn." He found himself producing a magazine—which he had never done before—directed at the Middle East. Thinking back on the time, McCullough glances at Rosalee and says, "I had to learn a lot fast, didn't I, pal?" She smiles at the memory.
Iris Chang first heard stories about the Nanking massacre as a young girl. During World War II, her parents told her, Japanese soldiers had slaughtered babies with bayonets. The Yangtze River had run red with blood; thousands of Chinese civilians had been tortured and raped. They were grotesque tales, almost fantastical in their horror. How could such things happen, she wondered, and yet not result in a single book about it in the public libraries in her hometown of Champaign-Urbana, Illinois?...
Him Mark Lai, board member of the Chinese Historical Society of America, remembers watching Chang going after sources at a group luncheon, "making a beeline for them and picking their brains." When preparing to write The Rape of Nanking, she studied how certain books become bestsellers. "She deliberately created that phenomenon," says Ding. "She did marketing research, what's unique about this book, when is the best time to hit the market. She would ask authors, 'Which of your books was the most popular, and how long did it take, and what happened?' She was scary in her research." He remembers phone conversations when he could hear Chang furiously typing on the other end. "She would write down everything. I felt like I was talking to the FBI. You couldn't lie; she would remember—'See, three years ago you told me this.' "
Sam Chu Lin, a radio and television journalist, recalls the time Chang was going through files in the National Archives in Washington, D.C., and became trapped inside the building. "She was so involved in her research that she forgot the building was closing," he says. She called her husband, who told her to dial 911. She refused, afraid that the incident would be reported in the national news. "Iris was the type of independent person who didn't want to be embarrassed," says Lin. Eventually she found a security guard, who let her out. Lin joked about it at Chang's memorial service, but it was a telling moment, that a writer so fearless could also be so concerned about revealing even the smallest of mistakes.
UCLA history professor Henry Yu, co-founder of a group of historians who are writing textbooks about the Asian American and Pacific Islander experience, recently taught Chang's The Chinese in America in an undergraduate class. The text is a diatribe against 150 years of homegrown bigotry, from the Chinese Exclusion Act to Wen Ho Lee. His students loved it. "The early parts of the book, where she talks about the early histories, they piss you off," he says. "That's a valuable thing, teaching-wise. I want my students to be pissed off."
It's too soon to know what Chang's legacy will be, whether she will be remembered more for her books or for her activism or for her untimely death. Her suicide was so sudden that people still lapse into the present tense when speaking of her, describing her quirks and idiosyncrasies as if she were still alive. Her official website, irischang.net, makes no mention of her death and continues to list her speaking schedule and contact information. There are concerns that her suicide will overshadow all else, but it's likely, as with the suicides of other famous authors, that the shock of hers will diminish with time as well. Certainly the international movement sparked by The Rape of Nanking will continue, albeit in unforeseeable ways. "I think that's going to be an impact that we're going to feel for generations," says Zia. "We don't even know what that impact is going to be yet, because this brewing tension between China and Japan right now is big, and has the potential to become even bigger. And Iris, her work, was a huge part of that."
Jordan Ingram always thought his history professor at Fairleigh Dickinson University was a little quirky. Jacques Pluss certainly had an unusual style, Ingram recalled. But Ingram, who is black, never thought his professor was a racist until after Pluss was fired.
Pluss said he was dismissed in March because university officials learned of his involvement in the National Socialist Movement, which bills itself "America's Nazi Party." School officials said he was let go for missing too many classes.
The 51-year-old professor bristles when he is called a white supremacist or racist.
"The world is made up of different cultures, all of which have a place, all of which have a direction and all of which should have a say in determining their own futures," he said.
University officials declined to elaborate on Pluss' ouster. It was unclear what role _ if any _ Pluss' political views played in the decision.
Pluss, who had taught at the university since 2002, said he joined the neo-Nazi group in February but kept his views a secret on campus.
Just after dismissal, Pluss went on "White Viewpoint," a radio show on the National Socialist Movement Web site. He talked about FDU as a "Jewish plutocratic university" and described the school's men's basketball team as "nigger to the core."
"They (the players) have absolutely no right to be in that classroom because they do not possess either the merit or the enhanced intelligence to be there," Pluss said on the show.
Those views shocked many of Pluss' former students, including Ingram, a sophomore who earned a B-plus in the professor's Western Civilization class....
Pluss said he joined the National Socialist Movement because he "was looking for alternative political parties that presented what I thought were more solid and sensible plans for the common good of America."
The group, whose members wear Nazi regalia at its meetings, sometimes has joint meetings with the Ku Klux Klan.
The party's 25-point platform includes limiting U.S. citizenship to non-Jewish, straight whites. Nonwhites should not be allowed to enter the country and those already here should be "required to leave the nation forthwith and return to their land of origin: peacefully or by force," it states.
Some former students did not think Pluss' views influenced his teaching, however.
Only in retrospect did Sharrod Young, a sophomore who had a class with Pluss in 2003, see signs of discrimination.
"When it was two people raising their hands, he called on certain students. It just so happened it was white males," said Young, who is black.
Pluss, who received a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago, is being paid through this semester. Adjunct professors at the school generally make between $1,500 and $3,000 per course.
ONE could not call the road sign to Caleb Carr's 1,400-acre property in Rensselaer County welcoming. "Private land," it warns. Then there's the forbidding name of the spread: Misery Mountain Farm.
Drive a mile, and you will come to a big stone house so freshly built that it seems to carry a just-born dampness. In places you can still smell the wood. The idea, Mr. Carr has said, was to build an old house, a house so historically accurate, so in harmony with its surroundings, that it would seem to have been there for 200 years. But it is too fresh, too bare for that. It is also, with its wraparound porch and pillars, far too grand to be a typical house in this rural community 180 miles north of New York City.
Still, the fellow who eventually comes to the door is friendly enough. His graying hair, which hangs past his shoulders, is still wet from the shower. His clothing is worn and comfortable: a stretched-out sweater, blue chinos and old wool socks. There is a blue fabric brace on his right arm.
"I, like most of my friends, couldn't believe I bought a mountain called Misery Mountain, because it was so appropriate," Mr. Carr said later, settled on the back porch in that most bucolic of human furnishings, a rocking chair.
No kidding? He seems pretty mellow now.
"I have a grim outlook on the world, and in particular on humanity," he said. "I spent years denying it, but I am very misanthropic. And I live alone on a mountain for a reason."
Mr. Carr, a novelist and military historian, is 49. He has been known as an angry guy since the success of his 1994 novel, "The Alienist," a mystery about a serial killer set in 1890's New York. A million-dollar book deal did not seem to mute that anger.
When critics attacked his 2002 book, "The Lessons of Terror: A History of Warfare Against Civilians: Why It Has Always Failed and Why It Will Fail Again" (Random House), Mr. Carr posted an online harangue against those critics - and the subtext seemed to be female critics - "who somehow think they have been suddenly, magically endowed with a thorough knowledge of military history," and "are therefore just as qualified to review books on that subject as they are to chatter about bad women's fiction."
But now, in his new house in the upstate township of Cherry Plain, which has a church and a post office and not much more, Mr. Carr is open and undefensive. Sitting on the back porch overlooking a brook, he discusses being an angry guy, but except for the subject of his book about terrorism, he does not display anger....
Mr. Carr grew up in domestic chaos. Violence predated him.
His father, Lucien Carr, who died in January, was a journalist, a friend of the novelists Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs and the poet Allen Ginsberg, and an alcoholic. As a 19-year-old student at Columbia, Lucien Carr was involved in a notorious crime. When a man he knew made sexual advances toward him, Lucien Carr stabbed him to death. Mr. Kerouac helped him dispose of the body by tossing it into the river. Lucien Carr served two years in prison for manslaughter and was later pardoned. One newspaper reported that at his trial the uninterested defendant carried a volume of Yeats. It is not a detail of which Caleb Carr is unaware.
"At that age he was a killer, but he was not immune to affectation," Mr. Carr said."These guys were nothing but affecting. My father sat around bellowing till very late in the night about love, truth, beauty. If there were things these guys often missed it was love, truth and beauty."
Mr. Carr, who grew up on a tough block on the Lower East Side, would not be specific about the violence in his childhood home. Let's just say there is a reason he has insight into violent behavior, he said. His father was a drunk, and after his parents divorced and his mother remarried, his stepfather also drank. Caleb Carr was one of three sons, and his stepfather had three daughters. The offspring called themselves the Dark Brady Bunch.
Marc H. Ellis is university professor and director of the Center for American and Jewish Studies at Baylor University, a Baptist University in Waco, Texas, not ordinarily on anyone's radar map as a particularly notable institution when it comes to the field of Jewish scholarship. Indeed, theologically Waco is best known for serving as home of the Branch Davidians and the abortive FBI raid on its headquarters. Thus fringe"theologians" seem to feel right at home there. Maybe it has something to do with being home to singer Willie Nelson.
Unlike Norman Finkelstein, who has never managed to hold any sort of real academic position for very long and is these days an untenured assistant professor at DePaul University, Ellis pretends to have serious academic credentials. He claims to have written actual scholarly books, unlike Finkelstein's low-brow obscene Jew-baiting propaganda. But, in fact, there are surprisingly few differences between Finkelstein's anti-Semitism and Ellis'"scholarly work". Indeed, the two have a long history of collaboration with one another. They appear at one another's conferences and on one another's web sites, endorsing one another with true brotherly comradeship.
Like Norman Finkelstein, Ellis is commonly honored and cited as a Jewish anti-Jewish and anti-Israel authority by neonazis and by Holocaust Deniers, including on the web site of recently deported Canadian nazi Ernst Zundel, by the neonazi"Institute for Historical Review" or as an authority who helps debunk the"myth" that there ever was a Holocaust of Jews by the nazis. Unlike Finkelstein, Ellis apparently has never outright endorsed open Holocaust Deniers, denied that six million Jews were murdered by the Nazis, nor has he"justified" Holocaust Denial as"understandable".
But Ellis has hosted Finkelstein on numerous occasions, such as at the 2nd Dallas Palestinian Film Festival and the two sit together on the boards of a number of anti-Israel propaganda organizations, such as the "Deir Yassin Remembered" Organization, which also includes among its members such notables as Saudi-financed Paul Findley, Swedish neonazi Israel Shamir, PLO spokeswoman Hanan Ashrawi, and Israeli convicted spy and traitor Mordecai Vanunu.
Ellis has publicly endorsed not only Finkelstein's wretched little"book","The Holocaust Industry", but also Finkelstein's scurrilous ad hominem attacks on Nobel Prize winning writer and philosopher, concentration camp survivor Elie Wiesel. Ellis is proud of his collaboration with Finkelstein and also endorses all of Finkelstein's venomous activities against Israel. Ellis and Finkelstein are listed together in the review of Holocaust pseudo-scholarship by Gabriel Schoenfeld in"The Return of Anti-Semitism" (Encounter Books, 2004, 200 pages, $25.95).
So who exactly is this Marc H. Ellis? Ellis holds a PhD from Marquette University, a Jesuit institution in Milwaukee, itself also no one's idea of a serious research center on Jewish thought. His first position after graduation was at Maryknoll School of Theology in Maryknoll, New York, a Catholic school that is evidently not accredited as a research university but is a center of"liberation theology," which is Marxised Christianity, and the solidarity movement for Central American Communists in the1980s. Ellis moved to Baylor University in 1998 as a full professor and there he directs"Jewish Studies", all by himself, the sole faculty member at the “Center of American and Jewish Studies”. The Center web site lists endorsements by a"Christian feminist theologian," but not by a single Jewish scholar.
Ellis has published a series of books, all largely promoting liberation theology mixed with his thoughts about the Holocaust and Israel's endless track record of"inhumane crimes", most of them published with "Fortress Press", a non-academic church publisher associated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Ellis seems to have succeeded in getting virtually no Jewish audiences, publishers nor journals anywhere in the world to take his"scholarship" seriously. Well, almost none. Ellis sits on the editorial board of"Tikkun" magazine, a leftist, pro-drugs, anti-Israel, Sixties-fixated magazine, which touts Marxism and New Age liberation theology dressed up in some nominally Jewish emblems and slogans. Ellis is an active collaborator with Tikkun's Michael Lerner and other Tikkun affiliate groups, and is often cited together with Lerner. Ellis is a regular on the Bash-Israel lecture circuit, especially before Christian audiences, and is a speaker in demand for"Palestine Solidarity Events.”
Ellis claims to be some sort of expert on"Holocaust Studies" and has authored a number of books that claim to be Holocaust scholarship, including"Ending Auschwitz: The Future of Jewish and Christian Life" [Westminster John Knox Press (1994)], and Israel and Palestine: Out of the Ashes (Pluto Press, 2003),which purports to be a book about the"lessons of the Holocaust" for resolving the Arab-Israeli war. In his other writings, such as in "O, Jerusalem. The Contested Future of the Jewish Covenant," [Fortress Press (1999)], Ellis proffers his sage advice for resolving the Middle East war, in part based on the appropriate lessons to be drawn, a la Ellis, from the Holocaust.
Ellis himself sums up in his own words the"lesson" he draws from the Holocaust :
"To have the Holocaust part of Jewish success, to have the victims of the Holocaust become part of Jewish empowerment, is unsettling. To speak of the Holocaust without confessing our sins towards the Palestinian people and seeking a real justice with them is a hypocrisy that debases us as Jews. Surely, the ultimate trivialisation (sic) is the use of memory to oppress others and this, rather than the 'industry', is responsible for the difficulties facing those who seek to communicate the historic suffering of European Jews."
Ellis repeatedly insists that Jews have abandoned"Prophetic ethics". But there is little in his books to indicate that he has the slightest idea of which ethics the Prophets of the Bible really promoted, nor even that he has ever bothered to read those books of the Bible. He evidently is willing to take Tikkun editor Michael Lerner's word on what they contain. Certainly Ellis would regard an Elijah urging King Ahab on to war against the Syrians and to grab the king's possessions to be a war-monger, a fascist, and a downright Zionist. Ellis also knows nothing of the truly effective anti-terrorist policy adopted by the Prophet Samuel against the Yassir Arafat of his day, the King of the Amalekites, when the latter claimed the Jews were colonial occupiers and oppressors, a chapter from the Bible that every ethicist on earth should study carefully.
Ellis' idea of promoting the ethics of the Hebrew Prophets is to write Israel-bashing pieces for the same al-Ahram Egyptian daily that regularly prints blood libels about Jews and cites the"Protocols of the Elders of Zion" as an authoritative source. One wonders where exactly Ellis finds sources in the Books of the Prophets for the Palestinian"Right of Return", which he so passionately endorses, that is, their"right" to end Jewish national existence. Ellis thinks that Jews should turn their High Holidays into days of mourning for their" crimes" against"Palestinians."
Ellis' latest effort on behalf of Finkelstein-style misrepresentation, distortion, and trivialization of the Holocaust, replete with Ellis' usual insistence that the Holocaust needs to be converted into a weapon against Israel's survival, is"Israel and Palestine: Out of the Ashes", Pluto Press Ltd, 2003.
The first hint one has of the real orientation of this atrocious little book, which purports to be a theological re-examination of what it means to be Jewish after the Holocaust, is that the only people Ellis and his publisher could find to endorse the book on the jacket are members of the Terrorism Lobby: Edward Said, Noam Chomsky, and their ilk. Not a single Jewish theologian. Pro-terror and Islamist web sites have given the book rave reviews. So has the PLO's web site. The leftist extremist magazine"The Nation" recently praised the book's call for Israel to be eliminated, although expressing dislike for the fact that Ellis thinks religion still has some positive roles to play in the 21st century. Need we say more?
This poorly-written book, the latest in the series of sophomoric Israel-bashing propaganda tirades published by Pluto Press - by the way, is little more than a vicious anti-Israel broadside. The only thing of value that Ellis thinks Jews should derive from their experiences during the Holocaust is an unambiguous denunciation of Israel and total support for the demands and agenda of the Palestinian terrorists. He denounces all Jewish denominations and all rabbinic institutions for their failures to endorse Palestinian violence unreservedly. He is as hostile to the Jews of America as he is to Israel:"We as Jews come after the Holocaust, but we also come after the illusory promises of Israel and America. And we cannot find our way alone, only with others who realize that the promises they have been handed are also illusory."
For Ellis, Israel is the embodiment of all that is evil and all that is wrong with Judaism today. His concept of Israel is of a bunch of"bullies" riding about in helicopters and firing senselessly at poor innocent Palestinian civilians for absolutely no reason at all (an image repeated ad nauseum in many of Ellis’ screeds).
Suicide bombers blowing up Israeli buses and other perpetrators of mass atrocities against Jews do not interest the busy Ellis, who always seems to find time to sit in those Board Meetings of the"Deir Yassin Remembrance" propaganda committee. He certainly does not think any lessons from the Holocaust can constitute justification for any Israeli soldier actually picking up a weapon to defend his country. Ellis' Israel is a belligerent selfish entity, mistreating and enslaving (yes, he uses that term) the Palestinians, as part of some sort of grand pursuit of the goals of the Jewish settlers in the"Palestinian" territories.
While I did not test it with a computerized word count, I would wager that the word"bully" juxtaposed next to"Israel" is the most common word combination in Ellis' entire anthology of writings. Ellis apparently has never heard of the Oslo"peace process" and writes about Israeli" conquest" and"occupation" of the Palestinians as being" complete," this a decade after Yitzhak Rabin and Bibi Netanyahu turned almost all of them over to the PLO's tender rule.
Ellis makes it clear that he only feels comfortable with his fellow Jews when they are being victimized and brutalized. When they stand up to defend themselves, they lose their Jewish soul and their legitimate right to exist. In his zeal to delegitimize Israel (he speaks blissfully of the"post-Israel era" and is a supporter of the"One State Solution," whereby a single Palestinian state with an Arab majority emerges in all Israeli and Palestinian territory, displacing the exterminated Israel), he goes even further than the"Rabbis" of Tikkun magazine, which Ellis regularly praises as the very embodiment of post-Holocaust Jewish ethical concern and values.
Like Norman Finkelstein, Ellis throughout the book asserts that the Jews have utilized the Holocaust as a gimmick to grasp power, steal property, and oppress the poor Arabs. Ellis cannot imagine the Arabs as having ever done anything at all that might justify Jewish retaliations and reprisals against them by Jews. According to Ellis, Israel's original sin was to utilize the Holocaust as an excuse to occupy"Palestinian" land, and never mind that the only land Israel ever"occupied" was Syrian, Egyptian and Jordanian land, seized in Israel's 1967 counter-attack against those aggressors. Well, let's slow down a bit, because there is no doubt Ellis also regards pre-1967 Israel, Tel Aviv and Haifa, as illegally Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands as well.
In Ellis' opinion, Israel's existence is not justified by Jewish suffering during the Holocaust. The only"massacres" of any Holocaust-relevance are those Israel perpetrates. Jenin and Deir Yassin (neither of which was in fact a massacre) are the moral equivalents of the Holocaust of the Jews, insists Ellis over and over. But in Jenin, less than twenty civilians died in the midst of a military operation by Israel against terrorists hiding in the town. Deir Yassin was the scene of a battle in which some civilians got killed in the fighting but no massacre took place. One cannot imagine a more obscene distortion than to compare these Arabs killed in military operations with the Jewish victims of the nazi Holocaust, especially when the person doing the comparison has never had a word to say against Arab aggression and Arab anti-Jewish terrorist atrocities, nor against Arab calls for genocide.
Ellis is openly contemptuous of any talk about Jews being in need of any national empowerment. Such things constitute"Constantinian Judaism," to use Ellis' favorite terminology, a malapropism picked up - one suspects - after spending too much time misrepresenting Judaism at Christian theological institutions. This, deconstructs Ellis, is nothing more than conscripting religion to serve the agenda of the militarist state – Ellis uses it to describe Jews who support either Israel OR the United States - and of course those evil malicious Jewish"settlers". Jews can only fulfill their proper ethical role in history, which - Ellis is persuaded - is to promote socialism and leftist fads, if they are stateless and suffering. While crying his eyes out over the"inhumane" treatment of Arabs by Israel, Ellis never finds time in all his discussions of the theological implications of the Holocaust to consider the mass murder of Jewish children by his beloved Palestinians. Uniformed Jewish youths certainly have no right to ride around in helicopters to prevent such things.
Nor is Ellis willing to acknowledge that any"mistreatment" of Palestinians, such as the assassination of some of their leading terrorists, might have anything at all to do with the atrocities committed by Palestinians against countless Israeli Anne Franks. Clearly such Israeli behavior could not possibly have anything to do with ISRAELI Jews learning a lesson or two from the Holocaust. In a book supposedly about the lessons of the Holocaust for the Jews, there is not a single word about the Nazi-like demonization of Jews by the PLO and its affiliates, about their insisting that Jews drink gentile blood on Passover, nor the daily Islamofascist calls for genocide against Jews.
Ellis even rejects the political positions of Israel's Far Left as insensitive, brutal and offensive, as insufficiently"progressive". He is contemptuous of claims that Labor Party leftist Ehud Barak's offer to the Palestinians at Camp David II in 2000, in which Barak offered the PLO absolutely everything it was demanding (but not Israel's immediate liquidation, which is what Arafat and Ellis desire), and pouts his indignation at assertions that this was extraordinarily generous, some might even say suicidal. The Barak offer did not come even close to what Ellis insists Israel must do, which is to cease to exist.
Ellis is a passionate endorser of the"One-State Solution," also known as the Rwanda Solution, in which Israel will simply be eliminated as a Jewish state and will be enfolded within a larger Palestinian-dominated state that stretches from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River. This, insists Ellis, is the ultimate realization of the Jewish mission and the only permissible lesson that Jews may learn from the Holocaust.
Ellis' explicit motivation for writing this last book is that he got drubbed rather badly in a debate a few years back in New Zealand by Prof. Yossi Olmert, brother of the erstwhile Mayor of Jerusalem, a prominent Israeli Orientalist and scholar. It seems that at a public debate, Olmert had the chutzpah to defeat Ellis' arguments mercilessly. Hence, Ellis opens his book by viciously stating that Olmert is the moral equivalent of Yigal Amir, the assassin of Yitzhak Rabin. He denounces Olmert as a bully because Olmert bested him in that debate. In other words, his"theology" and"scholarship" are motivated by sandbox urges.
No doubt all of Israel similarly became a bully because it refuses to adopt the program for self-destruction advocated by this"theologian" from Waco. Baylor University would be well advised to de-fund Ellis' silly little" center" and move the funds to the football team, where they can make a serious contribution.
The main theological lesson that Marc H. Ellis draws from the Holocaust, about which he pretends to be some sort of expert, is that Jews must stop trying to defend themselves against violent anti-Semites and that - instead -"progressive Jews" should strive to create a second Holocaust by seeing to it that Israel is destroyed. The moral significance of the Holocaust, in Ellis' opinion, is that it must be utilized as a bludgeon to beat down Israelis and to rationalize Arab terror and attacks on Jews. The only real lesson that Marc H. Ellis wishes Jews to learn from the Holocaust is that Israelis are behaving like Nazis and that Jews who assist the Palestinian violence in achieving its aims are ethically equivalent to those few Germans who rescued Jews in World War II from the Gestapo. In other words, Ellis is a slightly less-crackpot, but a comparably hateful Norman Finkelstein.
 One of his books is "Toward a Jewish Theology of Liberation", Baylor University Press. In it he calls for a renewal of the "liberation theology embedded in the Exodus, seeking justice for all." It goes without saying that there is no liberation theology at all in the Book of Exodus, although there is a whole lot about liberating Jews from oppression and preparing them for military conquest of their Promised Land. That book carries an endorsement by South African Bishop Desmond Tutu, who of course also regards Muammar Khaddafi as a liberating figure.
 His earliest anti-Israel book may be"Beyond Innocence and Redemption: Confronting the Holocaust and Israeli Power", San Francisco, Harper, 1990., although he was churning out Israel-bashing articles earlier, such as this.
 Evidently Ellis does not read Hebrew at all; at least I could find no reference in his writings to his understanding any Hebrew.
 In the same essay, published 6 days after the 9-11 attacks, he denounces those who condemn al-Qaeda terrorists as simply evil and he questions whether America should be regarded as the"innocent" victim.