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.
SOURCE: Anat Bereshkovsky at ynetnews.com (10-19-06)
These “post-Zionist” professors don’t hesitate to weave comments about Israel’s injustices against the Palestinians, the lack of equality for Israel’s Arab citizens, and democracy’s limitations in a Jewish state, into their lectures.
Israel’s senior professors do not approve of this growing trend of younger professors politicizing academia by inserting anti-Israel agendas into Israeli institutions. Consequently, the “Israeli Academia Monitor” website was launched in order to warn student of such professors.
Posted on the “Israeli Academia Monitor” homepage was a message saying, “Israeli Universities are crawling with extremist staff members, many of whom hate their country, encourage their country’s enemies, and collaborate with international anti-Israel organizations, sometimes even with declared anti-Semites.”
Dana Brent, who runs the website along with Professor Steven Plaut, said that their goal was to expose what was going at universities with the publics funding.
“We noticed a lot of Israeli academics, who receive their salary from the state, use it for their own private ideology,” Brent explained, “They spread lies about Israel and there are many people in the world who would be happy to hear about it.”
Brent claims that beneath the plethora of courses on civil rights, human rights, feminism, and social justice supposedly working to expose students to “other ways of looking at the Israeli reality” actually lays anti-Israeli propaganda.
One of the many professors listed on the “Monitor” is Dr. Ilan Pappe, a social sciences professor at Haifa University. Pappe is one of Israel’s leading spokesmen against the definition of Israel as a Jewish State, and promoter of the “country for all its citizens” stance.
Pappe dismissed calls for professors to remain objective saying, “I am one of the few professors that openly voices my opinions. I don’t like academic members who say they are objective.”
He views the courses he gives as no less than a mission. He said, “Where, if not in academia, would I promote my political agenda?”
According to the “Monitor” website, there is a long line of Israeli professors that share Pappe’s views. A study conducted by Dr. Udi Label, a political psychology professor at the Ben Gurion Institute, showed that the trend was picking up speed.
The study revealed that syllabi of the social sciences departments in Israel’s universities included increasing numbers of courses supporting the ‘post Zionist’ ideas.
SOURCE: Juan Cole at Informed Comment (Blog) (10-19-06)
October 19, 2006
His Excellency Christopher Kastryzk
Republic of Poland
233 Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10016
Fax: 646 237 2105
I am writing to you on behalf of the Committee on Academic Freedom of the Middle East Studies Association of North America (MESA). We wish to convey to you our distress regarding your decision on the afternoon of October 3 to cancel abruptly a talk that Professor Tony Judt was scheduled to give a few hours later that evening. This action on your part constitutes a serious affront to the principles of free expression and the free exchange of ideas. We urge you to invite Dr. Judt to speak at the Consulate at a mutually convenient time in the near future and on a subject of his choosing. It is important to rectify the chilling effect that your cancellation on October 3 has had on the free exchange of ideas.
The Middle East Studies Association of North America (MESA) was founded in 1966 to promote scholarship and teaching on the Middle East and North Africa. The preeminent organization in the field, the Association publishes the International Journal of Middle East Studies and has more than 2600 members worldwide. MESA is committed to ensuring academic freedom and freedom of expression, both within the region and in connection with the study of the region in North America and elsewhere.
Dr. Judt’s October 3 talk had been arranged by Network 20/20, an independent New York City-based membership organization that sponsors lectures and discussion panels on issues relating to United States foreign policy. According to Network 20/20, many of its events are held at the Polish Consulate, and the Consulate had been generous and supportive of their efforts over the years. Dr. Judt’s cancelled talk was to be on U.S. foreign policy and the role of the pro-Israel lobby. Approximately 100 persons had been expected to attend. The president of Network 20/20, Patricia Huntington, told our committee that the Consulate had never before cancelled any of its programs there.
According to Ms. Huntington, a member of your staff telephoned her at 4:15 p.m. on the day of the event to tell her that it was cancelled. When she asked to speak with you, your staff member said that this was not possible because you were on the telephone with Abraham Foxman, National Director of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), and that you had been on this call “a long time.” After notifying Dr. Judt of your sudden cancellation, she and other Network staff member s, who had planned to arrive at the Consulate at 5 p.m. as usual to set up refreshments and deal with other logistics of the event, instead tried to notify meeting participants of the cancellation. In a subsequent press release, Network 20/20 said, “the consulate informed us that they were canceling the event because it was ‘too controversial.’ We regret that the Polish Consulate felt compelled to cancel Tony Judt’s talk.”
You have told the press that “maybe four” groups had called you on October 3 to express concern about Dr. Judt’s talk, but you declined to identify them. It now appears that the ADL person you were then speaking with was someone calling on Mr. Foxman’s behalf. Mr. Foxman has publicly denied allegations that the ADL put any pressure on you to cancel the event, but also said, “I think they made the right decision.”
David Harris, executive vice president of the American Jewish Com mittee, has said that he was one of the callers. “We didn’t want [the Consul General] to get blind-sided by any criticism that may emerge,” he said, according to an account in the Jewish Week of October 13. “It was natural to pick up the phone and say, ‘We want to be sure you know Tony Judt is a controversial figure in the Jewish community, and we want to understand whether you’re aware of it, because otherwise there could be misunderstandings.’” Harris said he “didn’t go to the extent of menacing or threatening, or any such thing,” and “I certainly didn’t ask the consul general to take any particular action.” According to press accounts, Mr. Harris has also commended the Consulate for doing “the right thing.”
From a perspective of protecting academic freedom and the core democratic principles of free speech and the free exchange of ideas, it is our view that you did the wr ong thing.
In an interview with the Jewish Week, you said, “It’s not true that they threatened or made any pressure. They simply expressed concern.” Elsewhere you said, “The phone calls were very elegant but may be interpreted as exercising a delicate pressure. That’s obvious – we are adults and our IQs are high enough to understand that.”
You have also said, “I don’t have to subscribe to the first Amendment,” and that you took your decision “for my state’s interests.” Of course, as Consul General you and your government have every right to determine what takes place at the consulate. In this case, however, Network 20/20 has used your premises regularly for several years, at your invitation. Your decision to cancel Dr. Judt’s talk at literally the last minute, following these telephone calls, reflects a disturbing disregard for freedom of expression, a principle that the governm ents of Poland and the United States have pledged to respect. It is difficult to avoid concluding that pressure was indeed exerted on you by various pro-Israel organizations, however elegantly it may have been conveyed. We regret that you chose to succumb to that pressure, thereby conveying a message that you do not consider the free exchange of ideas to be worthy of your support when those ideas are “controversial.”
We strongly urge you to reconsider your decision of October 3, and in the process affirm your support for free expression and the free exchange of ideas, by inviting Professor Judt to give a talk at the Consulate at a mutually convenient time and on a subject of his choosing.
We look forward to your response.
cc: Abraham Foxman, National Director, Anti-Defamation League
David Harris, Executive Vice President, American Jewish Committee
Patr icia Huntington, President, Network 20/20
SOURCE: Inside Higher Ed (10-19-06)
The address on the packages referred to their trustee status.
The book is Islamic Imperialism: A History, published by Yale University Press. The author is Efraim Karsh, a professor at the University of London who is highly regarded in neoconservative circles, but who has been harshly criticized by many in Middle Eastern studies. According to the Yale press, the book argues that the attacks on 9/11 reflect Islamic imperialism, and “Islam’s war for world mastery.”
The Association of Governing Boards of Colleges and Universities sent an alert to members Wednesday disavowing any connection to the mailing, and saying that it would not have given out trustees’ names so that someone could mail them the books. The AGB alert said that law enforcement officials were looking into the mailings.
The books were sent by the Ethics and Public Policy Center, a Washington-based think tank that says it was founded “to clarify and reinforce the bond between the Judeo-Christian moral tradition and the public debate over domestic and foreign policy issues.”
M. Edward Whelan III, president of the center, confirmed Wednesday that his group had sent the books, and said that he did not know how many trustees were receiving them. The AGB alert said that 50,000 books had been shipped. Whelan said that trustees were not the only recipients and that some of the books had been sent to journalists and lawmakers, among others....
SOURCE: Rick Shenkman, reporting for HNN (10-17-06)
He's co-authored a book with Robert McNamara and was the first Western scholar to be given access to the archives in Hanoi, so it isn't surprising to learn that Vassar historian Robert K. Brigham sees parallels between Vietnam and Iraq. But he fairly shocked a small audience in Seattle today when he claimed that Condoleezza Rice is following in the footsteps of Henry Kissinger in Iraq, reversing the course of Bush administration foreign policy 180 degrees. Neo-con ideology is out, Metternich is in.
Brigham, who shared his perspective with scholars at the Army War College last Friday, says that Secretary of State Rice has adopted a Kissingerian 19th century balance-of-power approach to Iraq starkly at odds with the administration's democratic rhetoric in the first term. It's 1815 again, he says, referring to the Congress of Vienna, with Condoleezza Rice playing the part of Austrian Foreign Minister Metternich. Brigham's thesis is that Rice apparently has decided that the only way out of Iraq is for the United States to work covertly in league with Iran and Syria in the hope that they can control the chief groups of insurgents. In exchange for their help, he says, Rice is likely promising Iran and Syria through back channels the chance to become regional major players with American help.
This approach makes a certain amount of sense, he says, noting that both countries might hope to follow the example of China, whose economy began skyrocketing after detente with the United States in the 1970s. Nodding his head in wonderment he observed several times that China's per capita income has quadrupled since the 1970s. If Iran and Syria could achieve similar results their regimes could hope to remain in power forever.
But he also expressed reservations about Rice's old-fashioned approach, noting that it may not be possible for Iran and Syria to control the non-state actors in Iraq. It's not clear he said that we know nearly enough about the insurgents as we should to follow this course. While a deal could be struck with them if their end game is to run a government, no deal may be possible if they have some other goal in mind. And the sad fact is American intelligence is so weak in Iraq that the United States government doesn't really know what the insurgents want.
In all events a democratic Iraq is now an unlikely possibility. The best the United States may be able to hope for is a "decent interval" between the time we draw down our forces in Iraq and Syria and Iran become dominant there. He asked point blank if this is Secretary of State Rice's limited goal now. If so, it's Vietnam all over again. As Brigham recounted, Henry Kissinger in the 1970s concluded that because American popular support for the Vietnam War was declining the United States could not win. The solution therefore was to ask Moscow and Beijing for help in restraining North Vietnam while the United States slowly began the withdrawal of American forces. Kissinger always denied asking the Soviets and the Chinese for help in arranging a "decent interval." But documents released in the last year confirm that he did, says Brigham. Chinese leader Chou En-lai asked Kissinger how long a period this decent interval needed to last. Eighteen months, said Kissinger. And that is precisely how long the North Vietnamese waited before beginning their final push to conquer South Vietnam, Brigham noted.
Bob Woodward recently reported in State of Denial that Kissinger has become one of President Bush's chief advisors. Woodward has concluded this means the president plans to follow Kissinger's oft-stated Vietnam line that we should fight until victory. Brigham says Woodward needs to go back and read some history books. He'd discover that while Kissinger was telling the American public that victory in Vietnam was essential, he was secretly arranging to allow North Vietnam to retain 100,000 troops in the South after the United States withdrew, a provision that turned up in the Paris peace accords. That, says Brigham, doesn't sound like victory.
Brigham, who is friends with Bob McNamara and the author of the recently published book, Is Iraq Another Vietnam?, admits there are thousands of ways Iraq and Vietnam are different. But he says he's struck by several parallels. The strategy of clearing and holding ground is the same as in Vietnam. The rhetoric is the same; we will stand down as Iraqis stand up is classic Vietnam talk. And likely as not this war will end in failure as Vietnam did, with similar resulting recriminations in America for a generation.
The economic consequences could also be equally devastating. Remember the bad economy of the 1970s? It's coming, he predicted. Once again we have acted as if we could have both guns and butter. But by another economic measure the wars are dissimilar. Vietnam in inflation-adjusted dollars cost roughly half a trillion dollars over a period of twenty years. Iraq has cost more than that in less than four.
SOURCE: Bruce Craig in AHA Perspectives (10-1-06)
Anticipating a drastic reduction in its budget in fiscal 2007 NARA has already begun taking steps in response to the anticipated shortfall. For example, a hiring freeze went into effect on July 3; just days later, NARA requested and obtained approval from the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) for early retirement authority and permission to advance to employees voluntary separation initiatives; the goal was to cut expenses by moving some in NARA's aging workforce out of the agency or into early retirement. Finally, the archivist proposed new rules regarding reduced hours of operation—no more weekend hours, no more evening hours—that could dramatically affect researchers who seek access to NARA facilities in Washington, D.C., and throughout the country.
So who is responsible for the NARA budget blues? The president for his unrealistic budget proposal? Congress for failing to inject funds for the agency's real needs? The archivist for not having sufficient political clout with the White House or Congress? The history and archives community for not adequately making the case for NARA funding needs to their elected lawmakers? Or, are other factors responsible? ...
SOURCE: Robert Townsend in AHA Perspectives (10-1-06)
This study analyzes how many history teachers held one of two qualifications—a degree in the field (or at least a minor in history) and a certification to teach social studies. The report draws on a large survey of more than 51,000 school teachers in the 1999–2000 academic year, using the proportion of students receiving subsidized meals as a marker of relative poverty at the school.
According to the study, just 44.9 percent of students in America's high schools were taught by a teacher who had either majored or minored in history as undergraduate (only 37.4 percent by teachers who had majored in history). For students at schools where less than 10 percent of the student population received some subsidy for their lunches, more than 52 percent were taught history by a teacher with a major or minor in the field. In comparison, almost 46 percent of the students at schools where more than half of the students received subsidized meals learned their history from a teacher with that kind of sustained study in the discipline. ...
SOURCE: Robert Townsend in AHA Perspectives (10-1-06)
The Department of Education reports 29,808 baccalaureate degrees conferred in history during the 2003–04 academic year—a 7.5 percent increase over the year before. This was almost double the growth reported for bachelor’s degrees conferred in all fields, which rose by a modest 3.8 percent.1
As a result, history degrees comprised 2.13 percent of the 911 degrees conferred. This marks a modest improvement from the recent low of just 2.01 percent of all degrees conferred, two years earlier ....
SOURCE: AHA Perspectives (10-1-06)
On the surface the Association seems quite healthy, with a large membership, superb publications, and almost a decade of balanced budgets. Beneath that surface, however, there is real cause for concern. Over the past decade, membership remained essentially flat and subscriptions to the American Historical Review fell, even as the number of professional historians (in a wide variety of work contexts) grew significantly. At the same time, the Association finds itself buffeted by new challenges facing the profession, from a changing employment picture to the selling and reclassification of historical materials. This is occurring as a new generation rises to prominence in the profession (almost 60 percent of the AHA's membership earned their degrees since 1990) and changes in the technologies of communication reshape the way the AHA interacts with its members.
The Association needs to confront these challenges in a serious and thoughtful way, so in the coming months I will be chairing a "working group" of AHA members to address these issues. This working group will consist of Jim Grossman (Newberry Library), Lynn Hunt (UCLA), Earl Lewis (Emory Univ.), Danielle McGuire (Rutgers Univ.), Paula A. Michaels (Univ. of Iowa), Stefan Tanaka (Univ. of California at San Diego), and executive director Arnita Jones. The working group is small, because we want to prepare a final report and recommendations with sufficient quality and authority to command assent—a characteristic rare in documents written by large committees. To truly function, however, we will need your advice and input....
SOURCE: Independent (UK) (10-15-06)
At 61, he is hardly an antiquity. But since his landmark BBC Television series A History of Britain, which ran between 2000 and 2002, Schama, professor of art history and history at Columbia, has become something of a national treasure, in the traditions of the corporation's cultural arbiters. When he was subsequently asked to join the commentary team for the Queen Mother's funeral, Schama's elevation to the great and the good was confirmed, with a CBE and affectionate impersonation by Dead Ringers to complete the process.
This week, however, as his new series, Simon Schama's Power of Art arrives, he is in more radical mood. The series looks at eight artists who shocked the establishment of their day - Caravaggio, Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Bernini, David, Turner, Picasso and Rothko. In their art at least, all were radicals, some distinctly flamboyant. Does Schama feel a personal affinity for them? "Probably, probably, yeah," he says. "Are there any that I don't feel any connection to? No, you're probably right."
In conversation, Schama is equally iconoclastic - describing President George Bush as "an absolute fucking catastrophe", criticising Tony Blair over the invasion of Iraq, and censuring politicians on both sides of the Atlantic for their lack of historical awareness. He is critical of the idea of a "war on terror", and is hoping that the US will elect the African-American Senator Barack Obama as its next president.
Born in London at the end of the war, Schama studied history at Cambridge as part of a gilded generation of young scholars - including Quentin Skinner, John Brewer, Roy Porter and Lisa Jardine - who have since become standard-bearers for new styles and interests in cultural and intellectual history. Professor Jardine, now of Queen Mary, University of London, and a close friend of Schama's, says: "Many of that generation were passed over by the history establishment, and either had to work abroad or to develop new fields to find success."...
SOURCE: New Republic (10-17-06)
On September 30, 2000, images of 12-year-old Mohammed Al Durah and his father--cowering behind a barrel at Netzarim Junction, in the Gaza Strip--circulated globally, along with a claim that they had been the targeted victims of Israeli fire. If Ariel Sharon's visit to the Temple Mount two days earlier had sparked riots, these images triggered all-out war. The ensuing horror and outrage swept away any questions about its reliability. Indignant observers dismissed any Israeli attempt to deny responsibility as "blaming the victim."
But, by 2002, two documentaries--one German, one French--raised troubling questions. The raw footage from that day reveals pervasive staging; no evidence (certainly not the most widely circulated tape offers evidence of Israeli fire directed at the barrel, much less of Israelis targeting the pair; given the angles, the Israelis could scarcely have hit the pair at all, much less 12 times (indeed the only two bullets that hit the wall above them came from the Palestinian side, inexplicably 90 degrees off target); there was no sign of blood on the ground where the father and son reportedly bled for 20 minutes; there was no footage of an ambulance evacuation or arrival at the hospital; there was no autopsy; and none of the dozen cameraman present filmed anything that could substantiate the claim that the father and son had been hit, much less that the Israelis had targeted them. These documentaries had limited exposure, in part thanks to France2's refusal to run the one by a sister station in Germany. But they did spark a demonstration in Paris outside the France2 offices by citizens outraged to discover that so horrendous an image may well have been a fake.
The demonstrations apparently ruffled feathers. Some writers lambasted France2's coverage--most prominently Philippe Karsenty, who called for Al Durah beat chief Charles Enderlin and France2 chief Arlette Chabot to resign, and, in response, Enderlin and France2 itself--using the same law invoked against Emile Zola in the Dreyfus Affair--have accused three critics (including Karsenty) of "striking at their honor and respectability."
Now, four years later, the lawsuits are finally coming to trial in Room 17 of the Palais de Justice in Paris. The three suits (one for each defendant) come in rapid succession--September 14, October 26, and November 30--with judgments four weeks following each hearing. And, in at least two of the trials, I, a medieval historian, have been asked to testify.
I have become involved for two reasons. First of all, I noted almost immediately that Palestinians and anti-Zionists, insisting that Israel killed the boy on purpose, used Al Durah in a way familiar to medievalists--as a blood libel. This was the first blood libel of the twenty-first century, rendered global by cable and the Internet. Indeed, within a week, crowds the world over shouted "We want Jewish blood!" and "Death to the Jews!". For Europeans in particular, the libelous image came as balm to a troubled soul: "This death erases, annuls that of the little boy in the Warsaw Gherro," intoned Europe1 editorialist Catherine Nay. The Israelis were the new Nazis.
And second, when I saw the raw footage in the summer of 2003--especially when I saw the scene Enderlin had cut, wherein the boy(allegedly shot in the stomach, but holding his hand over his eyes) picks up his elbow and looks around--I realized that this was not a film of a boy dying, but a clumsily staged scene....
SOURCE: Jesse Lemisch post on Historians of American Communism list (10-16-06)
By way of rebuttal to Aptheker's criticisms of the Communist Party and account of her sexual molestation by her late father (CP theoretician Herbert Aptheker), Portside selects from a debate that took place on the Historians of American Communism list. I kicked off the debate there with what later became my History News Network posting, "Shhh! Don't Talk about Herbert Aptheker," October 8, 2006: www.hnn.us/articles/30522.html (this followed up my October 4 HNN piece, "About the Herbert Aptheker Sexual Revelations" : www.hnn.us/articles/30519.html.) After my posting on HOAC, I was the central participant in the ensuing debate, fielding numerous, bunts, hits and foul balls that were sent my way by adversaries. But as far as Portside is concerned, my piece and role in the debate don't exist. Every one of the people they post from HOAC was writing in response to me and (except for Stephen Schwartz), each was writing to attack my position; further, in all these cases I replied: Portside takes no notice of any of this. In other words, I have been erased from a debate in which I was the central participant. Portside sends curious readers around Robin Hood's barn - literally, to an archive -- to get to "other contributions to the HOAC discussion" -- in other words, me. The net effect and clear intent of Portside's incredibly tendentious selection is to provide a rebuttal to Bettina Aptheker. Schwartz's passing mention of me by name has to be mysterious to Portside readers, since they have no idea from Portside of my participation in the debate. Portside must have worked hard to come up with such a corrupt sampling. (Portside just doesn't want people to read any parts of the debate that don't fit their line. It should also be noted that for Chris Phelps's October 6 Chronicle of Higher Education review, which started the discussion of Aptheker's book, Portside sends readers to a kind of a memory hole, the Chronicle's subscribers-only site, when it is available to all on HNN, where it is linked to my "About the Herbert Aptheker Sexual Revelations."
Portside's erasure of me might also have something to do with my direct criticism of the group in my October 8 HNN piece: "The reeling first reactions to the revelations seem almost a mini-version of the first reactions to Khruschev's 1956 Secret Speech on the crimes of Stalin... " It should be reported that somebody (not I) sent a copy of Chris Phelps's article on Bettina's memoir to Portside around Sunday or Monday October 3-4. Portside, which manages in any case to do a good job of finding things on its own, is the normally fairly catholic and inclusive "discussion and debate" list of the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism, the sane wing of the former CP. As of this writing, nothing about this matter has been posted there, although Portside has posted various items about what we might call merely bourgeois molestation scandals. Famous Red Diaper types have been strangely silent about the important issues raised by Bettina, presumably dismissing it as a merely private matter. It sounds like a case of keeping dirty linen out of the laundromat. A friend who is an ex-CPer sees Portside's silence as tending "to confirm my sense that the habits of hypocrisy, and the refusal to deal with women's experience, have survived intact from the CP itself."
It may shed some additional light on Portside's action - or non-action - to note that Bettina's parents and others urged her to join the Committees of Correspondence - which Herbert had named, in imitation of the Committees of Correspondence of the American Revolution -- but that, as she writes, "I had no inclination to do so... I was through with Communist politics..." (p. 495). (One friend, formerly in the Party, speculates that Bettina may have little sympathy among former CPers because she left the Party, as they see it, "too soon" - although it was 1981; p. 406ff.)"
I have no ego wrapped up in my erasure by Portside. Indeed it is a badge of honor. But it's like reading Pravda in America.
BELOW IS PORTSIDE'S OCTOBER 16 POSTING
My Father the Icon; My Father the Molester
Daughter of Communist leader Herbert Aptheker recalls the pain and reconciliation that led to writing about her childhood abuse.
By Bettina Aptheker October 15, 2006 <http://www.latimes.com
[The oped below by Bettina Aptheker is based on her recent memoir, Intimate Politics. A discussion/review of this book by Chris Phelps appeared in The Chronicle of Higher Education in the edition dated October 6. The Chronicle objects to the reprinting of material that appears in CHE, but the article is available to subscribers of CHE at http://chronicle.com/.
We also print below material from the discussion of the Phelps article on the listserve of the Historians of American Communism (HOAC) <http://www.h-net.org/~hoac/>. Other contributions to the HOAC discussion can be found by typing in the keyword "aptheker" in the list archives. -- moderator]
Comments from: Bettina Aptheker, Clare Spark, Melvyn Dubofsky, Mark Rosenzweig, Stephen Schwartz
My Father the Icon; My Father the Molester
Daughter of Communist leader Herbert Aptheker recalls the pain and reconciliation that led to writing about her childhood abuse.
By Bettina Aptheker October 15, 2006 <http://www.latimes.com/
It is a little disconcerting and somewhat chilling to read reviews of my recently published memoir and see my own words quoted back to me. It is not because I don't like what I wrote, or feel shame about it. It is because I was the holder of so many family secrets, and the injunction to silence was so strong. In writing my story, I broke all of the family rules.
Growing up, I held tight to the illusion that everything would by OK if I too could project the image of the perfect family, even though my inner life was so fraught with tension. In seeing recent reviews of my book, although favorable, sometimes the child part of my mind shrinks in horror: "What have you done?" And then the calm, adult part of my mind says: "You have told the truth to the best of your ability." Any of us who has experienced childhood sexual abuse or other forms of abuse, even as adults, knows something of these conflicted feelings.
[The remainder of this article had been deleted by the H-Net editor -- the full article is available online, as was posted on H-HOAC recently.]
From: Clare Spark
Subject: Phelps on Herbert and Bettina Aptheker
Date: Thursday, October 05
I have been thinking, with some agitation, about Bettina Aptheker's astonishing revelation of incest, as reported by Chris Phelps' review in the _Chronicle of Higher Education_ ever since it was posted yesterday. I find it even more astonishing that the review accepts this and her other claims against her father (low pay for black help, criticism of Jewish passivity in the Holocaust) at face value. Moreover, as some other commentators have noted, it is passing strange that she waited until her parents' death to tell the world. But what I find most shocking is the review's credulity. Nor did the review see the revelation as vindictive, or possibly antisemitic. (The anti-Semitic stereotype includes Jews as excessively carnal, cheap, and cowardly.) Where is scholarly skepticism? Where is common sense?
The putative child abuse was not the only trial the heroic Bettina Aptheker has endured. Here is how Professor of Women's Studies Aptheker described her educational background for Out In The Redwoods (easily located through Google):
"[Aptheker:] I arrived in Santa Cruz in the fall of 1979 to begin my graduate studies in the History of Consciousness Program. I had two young children, and I was finalizing a divorce from my husband of thirteen years. I was also struggling to claim my lesbian identity. Brutalized by the police and FBI because of my Communist affiliation and radical activism in the 1960s and 1970s, 'coming out' for me was at once traumatic and exhilarating."
Recall that the review describes her sudden recollection, previously repressed, as having come to her while writing her memoir. Does this seem plausible to anyone here? Let us assume that father committed incest with young Bettina for years, yet she had no memory of what had to be traumatic. The cynic in me wonders if she is not beefing up her history to demonstrate that she has overcome yet another assault by authority, undeserved and extreme, of course. Why would she do that? Nothing like a famous and controversial father to expose as a way of getting attention from reviewers for her book, published by Seal Press, described on the internet as a small feminist press. The historian in me recalls that the feminist theory informing women's studies requires that patriarchy be viewed as the primary social contradiction, and indeed there was a job posting for teaching Women's Studies at UC San Diego while I was in graduate school, stating that adherence to feminist theory was a prerequisite for hiring. What could be more dramatic proof that the male desire to control women trumps class and other forms of illegitimate domination?
Clare Spark, Independent Scholar
From: Melvyn Dubofsky
Subject: Phelps on Herbert and Bettina Aptheker
Date: Fri, 6 Oct 2006
In my youthful days as an historian at Northern Illinois U. back in the early 1960s, when that department was an outlier of sorts in the national historical guild, we invited such lefties and reds as Gurley Flynn and Aptheker to campus. Even in her old age and in his no longer youthful years, no two people could have been more dissimilar as personalities and social types. Flynn was gregarious, a smoker and a drinker, for whom no topic, including, sex, was beyond he bounds; Aptheker by way of contrast was stolid, uptight, the proper and prudish communist. No tobacco entered his lungs, nor did alcohol pass his lips; dressed in a conservative business suit, with a starched dress shirt, and tightly tied tie, he spoke only about matters political and ideological, flirted with none of the young women at his post-talk social, and, indeed, conversed almost solely with the men. Unlike Flynn who led and wrote about her unconventional sexual life and experiences, Aptheker seemed almost an asexual individual, more like a communist monk. Perhaps Bettina Aptheker's recovered memories expose the real Aptheker, a man so repressed sexually that he had to satisfy his urges through a form of masturbation with his daughter as the object and stimulant. Yet, as historians, we all are familiar with the tricks that mind and memory play. Without corroboration, Bettina's recovered memories are less than convincing evidence and certainly would not suffice in a court of law. And with her father unable to offer rebuttal and her mother or other close relatives corroboration, we are left simply with a "she said" allegation. Personally, I find it hard to believe that the Herbert Aptheker whom I met 40 odd years ago was a pedophile, let alone an incestuous one. Instead of discussing the unknowable and unprovable, people on this list should focus on Aptheker's role and meaning for communism in the US, and also why a man who should have know better and who visited the Soviet Union numerous times insisted well after Stalin's death and K's exposure of the former's crimes that women enjoyed equality in the USSR and that Jews as well enjoyed complete equality and freedom.
From: Mark Rosenzweig
Subject: RE: Herbert and Bettina Aptheker
Date: Sun, 8 Oct 2006
For once I find myself somewhat in agreement with Mr. Schwartz. The search for a secret connection between the claims of abuse by the daughter and H. Aptheker's work on Hungary (about the character of which Schwartz and I would disagree) are, unlike matters of the Hungarian uprising itself, inadjudicable and unnecessary. They are also outside the purview of historians and people in related disciplines , and likely to be fueled, given his controversial character as a Communist/Stalinist outsider in academia, by his detractors' desire to seize an opportunity to attempt to portray Aptheker as what we call today "a sexual predator", a moral monster and sociopath, as already evidenced by the unseemly attempt to conflate being an accused incestuous parent with being a pedophile or a rapist, in order to attack not just his work or his beliefs but his person as a means of nullifying his human credibility altogether in all spheres.
Further, I believe that if Bettina Aptheker raises such egregious, conspicuously posthumous claims against her father, it is in full knowledge and disregard of the fact that the matter cannot be properly adjudicated but nonetheless will be taken, by those many with all kinds of reasons (of which she is well aware) to do so, as firm basis for a fundamental assault on the integrity of everything her father did and was associated with.
While the implications of these belated revelations for her father's reputation are-- as she well knows -- politically and academically damaging in the extreme, the motives for unleashing this hitherto unspoken personal history (which we are led to believe she repressed entirely from consciousness for more than 50 years only to retrieve it conveniently after her father's death and in the process of writing her memoirs. whole and undistorted, without confabulations or phantastic elaborations of the sort we know are common in the recollection of long past emotionally- charged events, whether or not they happened in actuality or only in fantasy, never mind allegedly fully repressed ones) , intact, with apparent full memory of all kinds of detail, seems to be a claim which has motives which are more the subject for psychoanalytic study and treatment than for the historical disciplines
Those who seize with alacrity upon this non-evidentiary, highly dubious personal material, suggesting it is somehow (they don't know exactly how or why) the "key" to not just the mind of Herbert Aptheker and therefore to the mind of a political intellectual who supported the repression of the Hungarian revolt, but to the proverbial "Communist mind" itself are, in doing this, not only unlikely to produce any connections but in the meantime are really reveling in the misfortune of a person, Ms. Aptheker, who felt, as is typical in her cohort, that she had, of necessity, to not only "recover" this kind of material , which always seems to be there for recovery-- one way or the other --but make it available to the public, in print, in what I can only call a sad ritual of our times, of compulsory public self-revelation, emotional exhibitionism and conspicuous displays of the "healing" of the wounds of life.
The credibility of the claims she makes about her memories of, not a "traumatic event" -- of the sort which sometimes is fully or partially repressed but which can also and more often become, a quite conscious, repeatedly re-lived, fixation with serious unconscious ramifications -- but of an entire "life situation", of events, by her own account, spanning whole phases of her early life, across several stages of biological, emotional, intellectual, cognitive and moral development -- fully ten years from the age of 3 to 13 - seem to me, to be prima facie problematic rather than something we should feel obliged, if we wish to approach it at all (which I believe to be worthless) to lend the benefit of the doubt. As for confirmation/disconfirmation, they are impossible and therefore a red herring to raise.
By all means let's discuss "The Truth About Hungary": the truth about Herbert and Bettina is inaccessible to us.
Mark Rosenzweig Zhenjiang, Jiangsu Province, PRC
From: Stephen Schwartz
Subject: Herbert and Bettina Aptheker
Date: Tue, 10 Oct 2006
Regarding the continued discussion over the recollections of Bettina Aptheker and the allegation that her father habitually molested her:
I first would repeat my earlier statement that regardless whether Bettina (whom I have a right to call by her first name since I knew her) has made a truthful statement, it is absurd to debate why she did not do so while her parents were alive. Lemisch's point about Jewish CPers and Israel is well taken -- but more important is the very solid legal fact that no publisher would put such a statement in print while the person accused was alive, for risk of a libel suit. I made this point before.
To extend this point, there are those who enjoy attacking their parents and those who do not. Some of us had parents that were extremely intolerant, hateful, hurtful, and damaging Stalinists, but they were still our parents, and we hesitate to denounce them publically. To stray into religion, the prophet Muhammad said that those who come into Islam from the other religions should not attack their parents for holding to the earlier religion, because to become Muslim is good but your mother is your mother.
Believe it or not, I don't insist on personalizing these issues. I have tried to make this point about Aptheker and Hungary. To have supported the purges, Hitler pact, persecution of Trotskyists, postwar purges, trials of the Jewish writers, and suppression of the Budapest uprising would seem to me quite damaging as a basis for criticism of Herbert Aptheker or anyone else. It is shocking and sad to now learn that he allegedly broke the rules of normal society to the degree that he would reportedly molest his daughter. I am not sure what it says about the history of Stalinism, or the adulation of Aptheker in American academia. I can say that it appears Aptheker's early work on slave revolts and so forth remains quite valid. I can think of many CP intellectuals whose work I have criticized because it was poor in quality, and because I believe the CP inflated them into something they were not, i.e. major creative figures, only because of their political affiliation. I don't think Aptheker's work on slave revolts was inflated. I think he filled a very real void in American historiography. That does not excuse the rest of his life or behavior.
I also observe in the discussion here -- following on what seems to me a wilful confusion of paedophilia with incest -- a similar, apparently-deliberate confusion about recovered memory. Recovered memories as a corpus of psychiatric evidence have been discredited in many cases where it could be shown that the "memories" in CHILDREN, NOT ADULTS, were elicited through suggestion. The same is true in adults where "recovered memory" about UFOs involves both suggestion and an absence of physical evidence.
No reputable psychiatrist ever suggested that the recovery of memory in adults was or is generally suspect. If recovery of memory in adults was not a very real phenomenon, psychiatry would not exist as it does today. Recovered memory in adults has been a feature of psychiatric study and therapy since the late 19th century. Analysis of false memory or distorted memory is something every historian and literary critic does when they write or review a biography.
One should not have to point out, at this late date, that the mind is mysterious and plays tricks. People remember things that didn't happen. People don't remember things that did happen. The unconscious sometimes interferes with the process of memory. These issues -- remembering meetings and so forth -- get discussed in national political debates every day but it is seldom that the national media discussion ranges into freelance psychiatry.
I would like to also restate something I have argued before on this list: the great majority of historians make poor amateur lawyers or psychiatrists, although many seem tempted into it. I myself may be said to have deviated on this issue here, having offered opinions on recovered memory. I should therefore state, I suppose, that for several years I followed a course of intensive, orthodox Freudian therapy having specifically to do with false and recovered memories, so I am not simply improvising here. I realize that excessive dependence on personal experience is frowned on at H-HUAC, but am attempting to make a point.
Again, if there is something to be gained from this discussion it seems to me more philosophical than historical, but I am uncertain as to what it is. American Communists have been glorified and exalted in scholarship. A revelation like that about the Aptheker family undermines the status of a famous American Communist. It shows that American Communists may have been grossly imperfect human beings. There are many more such examples. The California Pilipino Communist Carlos Bulosan was found to have committed plagiarism. The Hollywood 10 produced movies like OBJECTIVE BURMA! and BLOOD ON THE SUN that were based on historical falsehoods. To cite a fictional but, I think, relevant example, the protagonist of Henry Roth's CALL IT SLEEP has an incestuous relationship with a female relative, and it is now widely believed that Roth himself was consumed with guilt for having engaged in such behavior. Do we now expel Roth from the canon?
Let us not make the mistake of thinking that because Communists had bad politics, and were often bad people, but are viewed by many as great people, that anti- Communists were or are, by opposition, perfect paragons of morality, especially those who are anti-Communist today when there are few real risks involved in taking such a position. Shia Muslims believe that bad actions can produce good results. Other believers do not. One thing is sure: human beings are flawed in every regard. Great intellects were horrible in politics. Great political figures had stupid and even evil opinions in other areas. Great creative personalities were and are often completely incompetent and even harmful in their personal relationships.
I don't see any particular point in questioning Bettina Aptheker's motivations in publicizing her memories of her father. Is it self-serving? What piece of published writing is not? After all, as Milton said, "fame is the spur," and few people write and publish out of purely charitable reasons. Do we demand from Bettina Aptheker vast powers of self-examination, reflection, or the capacity to make some great contribution to the understanding of human existence? I don't.
I was and remain hesitant to encourage anybody in the historical field to engage with the Aptheker incest issue. This is certainly not because I am a male or am anxious to protect the CP! It is only because human tragedy is what it is, and I believe the proper and worthy approach to it is to treat it with a certain distance. It seems to me that the concept of privacy no longer exists. Everyone is subject to criticism on anything, and completely unconnected issues are used to make political points. I don't consider this very hralthy.
Finally, a Communist intellectual all of us know and some of us love once commented that politics, psychology, physics, and art all operate by different rules and that a Marxist category cannot be forced on all of them. There is no Marxist or anti-Marxist context in which to place the tormented feelings of Bettina Aptheker, except to say, as in the case of any person in pain, that alleviation of suffering is better than aggravating it. It is a deeply human characteristic to recognize and empathize with pain even when it is experienced by those who have inflicted pain upon us. It is often difficult to accept such feelings. To cite one example, German Jewish exiles in the U.S. would not assist in the targeting of Hamburg for allied bombing because of their sympathy with their former neighbors. One need not be a saint to feel horror at the infliction of pain on someone that one despises. Rather, it is somewhat inhuman and alienated to refuse such empathy and to insist that further pain be inflicted. That is why all religions recognize repentance and counsel compassion. That is also why Sadism is considered a form of psychiatric illness. I do not suggest we dwell on the Aptheker revelations; nor do I suggest that we use them as a pretext to further torment Bettina Aptheker. The experience of publishing what she has published must have been and be enough of a punishment.
SOURCE: LAT (10-15-06)
IT IS A LITTLE disconcerting and somewhat chilling to read reviews of my recently published memoir and see my own words quoted back to me. It is not because I don't like what I wrote, or feel shame about it. It is because I was the holder of so many family secrets, and the injunction to silence was so strong. In writing my story, I broke all of the family rules.
Growing up, I held tight to the illusion that everything would by OK if I too could project the image of the perfect family, even though my inner life was so fraught with tension. In seeing recent reviews of my book, although favorable, sometimes the child part of my mind shrinks in horror: "What have you done?" And then the calm, adult part of my mind says: "You have told the truth to the best of your ability." Any of us who has experienced childhood sexual abuse or other forms of abuse, even as adults, knows something of these conflicted feelings.
My parents, Fay and Herbert Aptheker, were members of the U.S. Communist Party. My mother was a union organizer, and my father was often described in the New York Times as the party's "leading theoretician," as if it were an appendage to his name. He was also a radical historian and the literary executor of the papers of W.E.B. DuBois. He published extensively and was an exceedingly controversial figure in the historical profession, and his Communist affiliation assured that he was blacklisted from any university work, beginning in the 1930s.
I grew up in the 1950s striving to be the "perfect daughter" as my embattled parents bravely stood up to the McCarthy hearings, anti-Communist purges and trials and the executions of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. In childhood, I assumed that I would inherit my father's dream and further his ambition. This was my parents' expectation. As I matured, I gave up those particular dreams and ambitions, but I did not give up my mother and my father, even after the memories of sexual abuse arose. As I wrote in the memoir, "I sought a middle ground between the grief of an irreconcilable break and the long shadow of denial."
It was when I began writing the memoir in the mid-1990s, and especially its childhood section, that I had my first memories of sexual abuse by my father, which I had entirely suppressed until then. I was mucking around in my childhood because my daughter and my partner, reading early drafts, kept saying that the narrative was emotionally flat. "Where are you?" they wanted to know. "What were you feeling?" I was the narrator, but the story read as though I was floating around on the ceiling of my childhood, watching it unfold.
The psychological term for this is dissociation. I was about 3 years old when the sexual abuse began, and it was when my father and I were playing a game called choo-choo train on the rug on the living room floor of our apartment in Brooklyn. My father stopped molesting me when I was 13. By then, of course, it was no longer a game. It was clear in my memory that my father took great care never to hurt me physically; he was, in fact, very gentle with me. But he also made clear I was never, ever to tell anyone about our games.
Once the memories erupted — and they did erupt with astonishing, volcanic force — I stopped writing. I needed counseling, and I was fortunate to have an experienced and loving psychotherapist. My partner was bedrock, and my children were devoted to me. That I already had something of a Buddhist meditation practice was of great benefit. Although I was too agitated to sit still in meditation, I could walk, doing mantra, reminding myself that all emotion and thought are essentially ephemeral.
That provided the foundation for the compassion with which I ultimately faced my father. And it allowed me to return to the memoir project, writing without rancor. I also came to understand that, of course, I had dissociated. As a child, I attempted to protect my parents from the political onslaught of the McCarthy era in the only way that I could: by my silence, and the erasure of the untenable, protecting myself from what a child could not bear.
A little over two weeks after my mother's death in June 1999, my father and I talked about the sexual abuse. He initiated the conversation, asking as we were driving home from a Vietnamese restaurant. "Did I ever hurt you when you were a child?" was how he started. I had been furious with him for about five years, carrying around the memories like a truncheon and yet unable to confront him. But I said yes, and once we talked, his anguish was so great, his apology so heartfelt, that all the anger left me in a great whoosh of an out breath, and then I felt nothing but great waves of compassion for him.
There are many who knew my parents, and many more who have read my father's work or heard him speak or taken classes with him. Since the publication of my book, many people have written to me and offered their support, while others have expressed shock. One wrote to me in great anguish, saying that he no longer knew how to think about my father or his work. Others have simply expressed their disbelief that the Herbert Aptheker they knew could ever have done such a thing. And more than one person has invoked the idea of "false memory syndrome."
"Is there anything besides Bettina's words to support the charge against Herbert?" reads a recent post on the Internet.
Of course, there's little I can say in response to such allegations other than to observe that if you think it was shocking for you, imagine how I must have felt. For those who knew my father, I think there is a solution by finding that middle ground I sought for myself, between lionizing my father on the one hand or demonizing him on the other.
Why write of this sexual abuse? Why proceed with the memoir? More than just wanting to provide readers with firsthand accounts of the historical movements in which I participated, I wished to contribute to the ongoing collective reconstruction of women's history in which the intimate oppression of women and children is revealed because it is part of the historical record.
I wanted people to know that reconciliation is possible, healing is possible. Breaking silence, I bear witness, and the child is at peace.
SOURCE: Emma Jacobs in the Financial Times (UK) (10-13-06)
Emblazoned on the tea towel are the letters TETW. “It’s an elaborate joke,” Hennessy cries. “They stand for The End of The World!” Or Tea Towel, he later confesses. Hennessy retrieved it from Stockwell, a bunker in the Cotswolds chosen as the post-apocalypse refuge for the British government and military of the 1950s and 1960s.
It’s the prosaic bits-and- bobs as well as high political drama that catch Hennessy’s eye. Fish fingers sit alongside Churchill’s cabinet in his new book, Having it So Good: Britain in the Fifties. It describes a society emerging from second world war austerity into shaky prosperity while also eavesdropping on the cabinet meetings of Churchill, Eden and Macmillan – three very different premierships that each had to come to terms with Britain’s relative decline in the world.
Tastes, smells and sounds infuse the account and Hennessy, who was a child of the 1950s, is “a conscious figure” in the book. He recalls the moment when he heard that the Manchester United team had died in the 1958 Munich air disaster – he was playing with a toy car in his Finchley home. A glimpse of a Babycham bottle can still transport him back to that era.
Despite the weight of footnotes, the book is not arid and academic but packed with stories, a reflection of Hennessy’s 20 years in journalism, including spells at the Financial Times and The Times. It was later in life that he decided to make an honest subject out of oxymoronic contemporary history, eventually becoming the Attlee professor of contemporary British history at Queen Mary, University of London, in 1991.
His regular media appearances led one history purist to condemn him as an intrusive egotist who “does not really grasp what is at stake in the writing of history”. But Hennessy is not afraid of taking potshots at the establishment. He once said, of erstwhile friends on the left, now peers of the realm: “They’ve gone from Trotsky to tosserdom in one generation.”...
Ralph Luker explains the issues at stake in an article published on HNN's homepage:
SOURCE: AHA Blog (9-28-06)
The staff and officers of the Association work constantly to support and represent history in meetings, conferences, and a host of other activities. Too often, however, these activities are so immediate or time sensitive that they never make it into Perspectives. We hope this blog will bridge that gap, by reporting more regularly on these activities while they are still fresh and newsworthy. We want you to know what we are doing on your behalf (whether you happen to be a member or not), and hope to encourage you to feel a part of the work and advocacy efforts of the Association. We also want to hear your voice while it can play a real part in this work, and provide you with timely and critical information that you can act on as well.
We hope this blog will serve as a clearinghouse for interesting, and perhaps useful information about the profession. This could be a pointer to an interesting newspaper article on changing practices in the history classroom, a fresh piece of data about the qualifications of history teachers in the schools, a significant new book on best practices in the preparation of historical documents, or a significant new internet collection that will be of general interest to students of history. And occasionally this will be news about a forthcoming project or activity that could interest or affect a sizeable portion of the membership.
To that end, the authors will be the professional staff of the AHA and occasional invited guests who can offer a fresh perspective on one of these issues. As anyone who reads blog postings regularly knows well, this medium tends to blur the line between the professional and the personal that seems much more secure in traditional print publication and their web page analogues. This blog will try to maintain that line, while still bringing the same high quality of writing that you have come to expect from the articles that appear in Perspectives and more recently online in our News Briefs column (which has been incorporated into this blog).
Like the media that makes this blog possible, we see this as dynamic, a work-in-progress. So we encourage you to write to us with your suggestions for topics we need to address and new areas or events we need to cover. The AHA is here to serve the interests of all professional historians, and we hope you will expect no less from this blog.
SOURCE: Boston Globe (7-3-06)
"I was strongly urged by colleagues not to undertake this project, for two reasons," Caroline Elkins said in an interview at her home, not far from the campus. "One, they felt it was too politically sensitive. Two, they said there wouldn't be enough information. So, me being me, I decided those were good enough reasons to undertake the project."
At 37, Elkins has spent more than 10 years exhuming and writing about the long-hidden story at the heart of "Imperial Reckoning: the Untold Story of Britain's Gulag in Kenya." It's a vivid narrative -- not without its critics -- of oppression, torture, and cover up during the Mau Mau rebellion of the 1950s, which shows how even a democratic government with humane values can hide the truth of its abominable behavior.
Mau Mau was an uprising among the Kikuyu tribe of British Kenya, essentially a response to economic privation due to losses of land at the hands of British settlers. Beginning in 1951 and ending in 1959, the rebellion included an oath of loyalty among adherents, attacks on settlers, and a poorly armed movement based in Kenyan forests. Thirty-two Europeans were killed in rebel attacks. But in the British campaign that followed, thousands of Kikuyu, many of them innocent, were abused, tortured, or killed in a system of camps known as the Pipeline. By Elkins's calculations, as many as 320,000 men and women were held in the camps, and as many as 50,000 were killed.
Elkins uncovered hundreds of stories of tortures committed in the worst of these camps, some in grisly detail: castrations, clamping of women's breasts with pliers, fatal beatings. Equally compelling is her account of the British denial of the truth, which extended from local colonial officials right up through Winston Churchill and his successors, Anthony Eden and Harold Macmillan.
Though British officials lied baldly in Parliament and later burned virtually all the records of the camp system, Elkins reconstructed the story -- including the names and locations of the camps -- using eyewitness accounts, contemporary letters and private documents, and records of the opposition Labor Party's futile resistance to the repression. Most of the chief architects of the camp system, including governor Evelyn Baring, retired from the colonial service with honor and were never held accountable for the abuses. Several senior participants were interviewed by Elkins, and they are unrepentant.
After the end of the empire, Elkins writes, people in Britain wanted to put the conflict in the past. After independence in 1963, Kenyan leaders, too, found it convenient to forget about the guerrilla war in the interest of unity, since many abuses were committed by Africans on the British side. Since the longtime ban on the Mau Mau movement was revoked in 2002, renewed discussion of the rebellion has blossomed in Kenya. A group of Kenyan lawyers recently announced a plan to file suit against the British government in coming months.
The barbed-wire camps of the Pipeline seem a long way from the leafy environs of Cambridge, where Elkins lives with her husband and two sons. Indeed, she could have stayed comfortably in academia and avoided the gory details of war.
Born in New Jersey, she majored in history at Princeton. She had had the usual European and American history courses when she took a course with Robert Tignor, professor of African studies. Fascinated by the continent, she graduated in African history, with highest honors. But she was far from finished.
"What really stood out was her energy and her desire to pursue a difficult career in the face of many challenges," Tignor said by phone. "We were overwhelmed by her stick-to-itiveness, her ability to tackle archival and personal research. All that comes out clearly in 'Imperial Reckoning.' "...
SOURCE: Juan Cole at his blog, Informed Comment (10-12-06)
I never replied to the smear of me gotten up by Marty Peretz of the New Republic and carried out by a far rightwing Israeli historian named Ephraim Karsh, some time ago. It was beneath contempt.
Karsh used scurrilous propaganda techniques, attempting to insinuate that my criticisms of the Neconservative clique in the Bush administration are somehow like believing in the forged "Protocols of the Elders of Zion." Of course, he put the insinuation in the negative, so as to protect himself from criticism. No serious person who knows me or my work would credit his outrageous insinuations for a moment.
Karsh charged that I am innocent of the 20th and 21st century history of the Middle East because much of my writing had been on earlier periods.
But in fact I have formally published in refereed academic venues on the Taliban, on September 11, the Ayatollahs of Iraq and democracy, on the historiography of the Muslim Brotherhood, on the Salafi leader Rashid Rida and many other twentieth century and twenty-first century subjects. My book, Sacred Space and Holy War contains chapters on the twentieth-century history of the Arab Shiites and on the modernity of the Islamic Republic of Iran and I have also published a chapter at McGill University Press on the treatment of religious minorities by the Islamic Republic, especially in the 1990s and early zeroes.
In addition to my writing on academic 20th century and contemporary topics, which has been extensive, I have published a raft of op-eds on contemporary affairs in the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, Salon.com, the Guardian, the San Francisco Chronicle, the St. Petersburg Times, etc., etc. I am a sought-after commentator in the media on contemporary Middle Eastern affairs, which I follow on a daily basis, having made appearances on the Lehrer News Hour, Nightline, ABC Evening News, the Today Show, Anderson Cooper, Wolf Blitzer, CNN Headline News, etc., etc. The news professionals are in no doubt of my expertise on the up to the minute happenings in the region.
I am a person of wide personal experience with the late twentieth century and contemporary Middle East. I worked as a newspaperman in Beirut in the late 1970s. I lived for several years in Cairo. I lived in Amman, Jordan. I lived and traveled widely in Pakistan and India. I have continued to visit the region frequently in the past 15 years, keeping in touch with the pulse of opinion and changing local views. I don't need to do that through interpreters. I speak fluent colloquial Arabic, Urdu and Persian, and can get around in Turkish.
I have written a lot about the earlier history of the Middle East and will go on doing so. But Karsh's attempt to paint me as a dusty antiquarian is simply implausible.
You will note, moreover, that a medievalist like Bernard Lewis, who for the most part wrote about the early Muslim period or the Ottoman Empire, is lionized by people like Karsh when he writes about current affairs. Lewis's experience on the ground in the Arab world is minimal compared to my own.
SOURCE: Eric Alterman in the Guardian (10-12-06)
"I'm struck when I observe the Jewish community in the United States, especially in New York ...that it's a community which is the most successful, the wealthiest, the most well-integrated, the most influential, the most safe Jewish community in the history of Judaism, period - anywhere, anytime - since the Roman empire. And yet it's driven by an enormous self-induced insecurity."
Judt ought to know. Just this past week, he became the victim of its insecurity - or power, depending on how you look at it.
The problem was not Judt's London Review of Books (LRB) essay on "Bush's Useful Idiots", in which he carelessly failed to distinguish between those American liberals who supported Bush's massive misadventure in Iraq and those of us who had the good sense to oppose it. No, that annoyed people, particularly antiwar liberals, but as American liberals, we find ourselves frequently annoyed. Rather the essay causing problems for Judt was a New York Review of Books essay from way back in 2003, entitled, "Israel: The Alternative", in which he called for a one-state solution, and hence, the end of the Jewish state. Calling for the end of Israel is a much more serious offence in America than merely slandering liberals.
It's so serious in fact, that it led a group of professional Jewish leaders to try to prevent Judt from being heard any further. On October 3, Judt was supposed to give a talk about the Israel lobby to something called Network 20/20, an organization for mid-career professionals, at the Polish consulate. That talk never happened, and the group's president Patricia Huntington, who cancelled the talk that day, blamed the cancellation on "serial phone-calls from B'Nai Brith Anti-Defamation League (ADL) President Abe Foxman warned [the Polish consulate] off hosting anything involving Tony Judt."
According to a report in the New York Sun, a newspaper that is especially friendly to the Israel lobby, the Polish consulate insisted on the cancellation. But Huntington blamed the ADL, saying Foxman had threatened to poison Polish Jewish relations if Judt were allowed to speak. David Harris, the executive director of the American Jewish Committee, joined in with kudos for the Poles.
Foxman, however, denied the reports. Though he admitted to be pleased that Judt had been denied a forum, he explained: "One of our staff people called; they said they were just making the facilities available. We said, 'O.K., thank you.' As far as we were concerned, the issue was closed."
But of course it wasn't. Judt launched an email campaign, in which he explained that Foxman had warned the Poles that unless they cancelled, "he would smear the charge of Polish collaboration with anti-Israeli antisemites (= me) all over the front page of every daily paper in the city (an indirect quote)." Ironically, it was many of the same liberals whom Judt slandered in his LRB essay who came to his defence. Mark Lilla of the University of Chicago and Richard Sennett of the London School of Economics e-circulated a petition to be sent to Mr. Foxman and the New York Review condemning the cancellation and this liberal, like many others signed it.
The thing is, nobody really knows what happened. Foxman and Harrington refuse reporters' entreaties to speak any further, except that the ADL insists that "in no way did the League urge or demand that the Polish consulate cancel the October 3 event."
All we know is that once again, we see the price that one pays in the United States for going too far in one's criticism of Israel...
SOURCE: Andrew Ferguson in the Weekly Standard (10-16-06)
Over the last 50 years, like most enduring enterprises, Ed has diversified. This year alone he's taken several hundred people on tours of Anzio and Messina in Italy, the Oregon Trail in Idaho and Nez Perce encampments in Montana, scenes from the Mississippi floods of 1927 and from Abraham Lincoln's service in the Black Hawk War in the 1830s--on top of a schedule already filled with your basic Antietams, your Gettysburgs, your Shilohs and Chickamaugas and Spotsylvanias. He also found time to celebrate his 83rd birthday.
But Ed's first and last love is for the Civil War, and this, along with his standing in the trade, gives an air of inevitability to the publication of Fields of Honor. Somebody was going to have to put out this book sooner or later. For the last several years members of the self-named Bearss Brigades--a particularly tenacious species of the genus Civil War Buff--have armed themselves with tape recorders and gone chasing after Ed as he charges over the battlefields, hoping to preserve for the ages his incomparable observations and narrative spiel. Dozens of volunteers have transcribed the hundreds of hours of tape into thousands of pages of prose, and from these, culled and whittled, have come the 13 chapters of the book, offering definitive commentary on engagements from Fort Sumter to Appomattox. The literature of the Civil War is vast, of course, and nearly limitless in its variety of literary forms; but even so, I don't think there's another book quite like Fields of Honor.
And the reason is--forgive me if I sound like a Bearss Brigadier for a moment--there's never been a Civil War authority quite like Ed. Growing up on a ranch in Montana, he christened his favorite cows Antietam and Sharpsburg. His father was a Marine, and so was a cousin--"Hiking Hiram" Bearss, as the newspapers called him--who earned the Medal of Honor during the Philippines Insurrection and became, up to that time, the most decorated Marine in the history of the corps. Hearing their experiences led the boy to read every book he could get hold of about war. And when a real war made itself available, after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Ed enlisted and became a Marine Raider. He was sent to the Pacific theater, moving from the Russell Islands to the Solomon Islands to the assault on New Britain. His fellow Marines remember him for his almost empty backpack, containing only a few grenades, extra ammunition, and a copy of the World Book of Knowledge....
SOURCE: Wa Po (10-13-06)
Ignatieff, a noted human rights scholar and the front-runner in the race to lead the party, said in a French-language radio interview Sunday that the July 30 Qana bombing, which killed 28 civilians, "was a war crime, and I should have said that."
The co-chairman of Ignatieff's Toronto campaign, Parliament member Susan Kadis, abruptly quit the campaign Wednesday, and Canadian Jewish groups sharply criticized the candidate. Israel's ambassador to Canada, Alan Baker, said Thursday that Ignatieff's statement was "upsetting and disappointing."
Kadis said Ignatieff should "have a better handle on the Middle East."
The Lebanese civilians were killed when an Israeli warplane bombed a residential building in Qana. Israel said that it did not know civilians were in the apartment building and that Hezbollah fighters had fired rockets from nearby sites. U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan rejected Israel's explanation. He noted after the bombing that an Israeli bombardment had killed more than 100 Lebanese civilians at Qana 10 years earlier and said Israel was "causing death and suffering on a wholly unacceptable scale."
The controversy is a blow to Ignatieff, who holds a narrow lead in the party race ahead of its convention at the end of next month. The party leader would become prime minister if the Liberal Party regains control of the government, which it lost to the Conservative Party in January. Ignatieff, who was born in Toronto, left his Harvard post last year to win a seat in Parliament.
To try to quell the uproar, he issued a statement Wednesday in which he said he has been "a lifelong friend of Israel." He described the Qana incident as "a terrible human tragedy where innocent civilians died in a conflict that saw unjustified tragedies on all sides." He later told reporters, "War crimes were visited on Israeli civilians; they were visited on Lebanese civilians."
Ignatieff's recent comments were made in an attempt to apologize for his remarks on Qana in August. Then, he said the bombing was made during a "dirty war" and noted he was "not losing sleep" over it.
"I showed a lack of compassion. It was a mistake," he said Sunday on the Quebec talk show.
SOURCE: NYT (10-12-06)
SOURCE: Todd Gitlin at the American Prospect blog (10-10-06)
Judt said that ADL’s Abraham Foxman warned the Poles that unless they cancelled, to quote Judt’s e-mail, “he would smear the charge of Polish collaboration with anti-Israeli antisemites (= me) all over the front page of every daily paper in the city (an indirect quote).” Poland is particularly sensitive about the charge these days, what with the recent publication of Jan Gross’s book, Fear: Anti-Semitism in Poland After Auschwitz.
Harrington and Foxman did not reply to my attempts to ask them directly about this. But Harrington did tell the New York Sun that the ADL “forced, threatened, and exerted ‘pressure’ on the Polish consulate to cancel the talk.” ADL’s October 5 press release says that “in no way did the League urge or demand that the Polish consulate cancel the October 3 event.” I e-mailed Foxman to ask what he did say to the Poles, but have not heard back from him.
In 2003, Judt wrote a piece in the New York Review of Books advocating a binational state in place of present-day Israel. For myself, I disagree. Given the difficulties in establishing a modicum of justice in two states so soaked in hatred, a decent binational state strikes me as hallucinatory. I admire Judt’s historical writing but think he sometimes goes overboard when foraying into some contemporary events. (A liberal manifesto by Bruce Ackerman and myself, to be published in the next issue of the Prospect, with many other signatures, addresses one of these excesses.)
But that’s neither here nor there. Public debate on AIPAC is long overdue and Judt is to be commended for broaching the subject. Too many people of the My-Israel-Right-or-Wrong persuasion are indulging in an unseemly hysteria about broaching the subject in polite company. Do they really think they can sustain this taboo forever by waving the bloody flag? The same day Judt was unplugged, the Forward featured a scare headline about Farrar Straus Giroux (“publisher of Singer and Malamud”) planning to publish a book by the political scientists John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, whose paper on AIPAC last year provoked a huge kerfuffle. ...
SOURCE: NYT (10-11-06)
Yet the man they describe as “contrarian” and “indomitable” gradually fades from view as the filmmaker, reaching for a larger theme, abandons the home movies and photographs to linger with Palestinian refugees in Syria and a family of Mizrahim (Arab Jews) in Israel. Though loosely framed by readings from Mr. Said’s 1999 memoir of the same name, “Out of Place” is less a biography than a somewhat rambling meditation on exile, identity and the psychological scars of dispossession. The result is a melancholy, searching film whose inspiration, modestly buried in a Quaker cemetery in Lebanon, remains as distant as the world that shaped him.
Far more satisfying is the complex portrait provided by “Edward Said: The Last Interview,” a riveting record of Mr. Said’s 2002 conversation with the journalist Charles Glass. Though visibly depleted by illness, Mr. Said speaks eloquently about his privileged upbringing (including his early love of the Tarzan movies, in which he admits to identifying with the colonialists), his teaching at Columbia University and his twin passions for music and language.
The movie really begins to crackle, however, when the conversation shifts to Arab-Israeli politics and his involvement with what Mr. Said terms the “creative chaos” of the Palestine Liberation Organization. Vividly detailing his eventual disenchantment with Yasir Arafat and disgust with the peace process, Mr. Said is rueful about his lifelong attraction to difficult subjects. “I have learned to prefer being not quite right and out of place,” he says, returning again and again to his feelings of homelessness. Engrossing and wide-ranging, “Edward Said: The Last Interview” proves that a couch, a camera and a great mind can be all the inspiration a filmmaker needs.
SOURCE: Press Release -- Oxford University Press (Niko Pfund) (10-10-06)
There will be a service to commemorate Sheldon's life and achievements at St. Michael's Church, 99th Street and Amsterdam Avenue, New York, at 2:00 pm on Friday, October 13.
SOURCE: Phareswire.com (10-10-06)
Phares told his radio audience in Iraq that "the debate about the future of the liberated country is taking place today in America, and the voice of the Iraqi people and intellectuals is unheard yet. Americans do not hear enough from you. The US has spent billions of dollars and about 3,000 soldiers were killed in the war to remove Saddam and fight the terrorists. Yet your voice is not loud enough in the American debate. People need to know from you that had Saddam stayed in power, the massacres against Shiite, Kurds and moderate Sunnis, in addition to other communities, would have resumed. It is not just important for you, as thinkers and teachers, to educate the American People on your positions but it is your duty to do so. A real dialogue must be opened between you and your counter parts in America."
SOURCE: Olivier Guitta in the Weekly Standard (10-16-06)
ON SEPTEMBER 20, the State Department denied a visa to Muslim scholar Tariq Ramadan on the grounds that he had contributed around 600 euros to a French charity classified as a terrorist organization since 2003 because of its relationship with the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas. This latest exclusion follows on the revocation of Ramadan's visa to live and work in the United States while teaching at Notre Dame in 2004, a step taken at the express request of the Department of Homeland Security. While the American Civil Liberties Union and the leftist literary group PEN, among others, present Ramadan as a moderate and accuse U.S. authorities of intolerance, the background and views of Tariq Ramadan suggest the government's move was entirely justified.
For starters, Ramadan is the grandson of Hassan al-Banna, founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, the highly influential Islamist organization born in Egypt in 1928. It was the Brotherhood that invented the now-familiar Islamist modus operandi of covert organization, assassination, and extremist theology. Its goal was to overthrow the Egyptian regime, install a fundamentalist Muslim government, and impose sharia (Islamic law) as the new constitution. Tariq's father, Said Ramadan, was a major figure in this organization, expelled from Egypt by Gamal Abdul Nasser for Islamist activity.
Said Ramadan took refuge first in Saudi Arabia, where he was a founder of the World Islamic League, one of the largest Saudi charities and global missionary groups. He then moved to Geneva, where in 1961 he created the Islamic Center, a combination mosque, think tank, and community center. The philosophy of the Muslim Brotherhood influenced a generation of wealthy Muslim kids, including Osama bin Laden. Interestingly, Said Ramadan also had U.S. connections: He had a close relationship with Malcolm X and was personal mentor to Dawud Salahuddin, a black convert to Islam who murdered an Iranian dissident, Ali Akbar Tabatabai, in Bethesda, Maryland, in 1980. After fleeing the United States, Salahuddin spent a few days in Geneva visiting Said Ramadan before taking refuge in Iran. Profiled in the New Yorker in 2002, Salahuddin confirmed that Ramadan remained his adviser and spiritual guide until Ramadan's death in 1995.
Said Ramadan was one of the most important Islamist thinkers of the 20th century. He is probably the author of "The Project," a 14-page document dated 1982 found by the Swiss secret service in 2001. "The Project" is a roadmap for installing Islamic regimes in the West by propaganda, preaching, and if necessary war. (It can be read here.)
Tariq Ramadan was born in 1962 in Switzerland. After toying with a career as a professional soccer player, he settled into the family business as an Islamic scholar. He became a teacher of philosophy and theology in Swiss universities. Most European secret service agencies are convinced that, at the end of the 1980s, the Muslim Brotherhood chose Tariq Rama dan to be their European representative. In 1991, he went to Cairo to study with Islamist professors. Upon his return to Switzerland, he founded the Movement of Swiss Muslims. His objective was to reach Muslim youth by Islamizing modernity rather than modernizing Islam.
Charming and smooth, Ramadan holds out Islam as the solution to all the problems of Muslim youth--in keeping with the slogan of the Muslim Brotherhood, "Islam is the solution." The first indication of his fundamentalism came in 1993, when he lobbied to outlaw a play called Mahomet, being produced in Geneva, which represented the prophet in a light that did not fit with Ramadan's views. In 1995, Alaa el-Din Nazmi, an Egyptian Secret Service agent assigned to watch the Ramadan family, was murdered in Geneva. No one has been arrested for the crime....
... Ramadan often speaks equivocally. Commenting on the September 11 attacks ten days after they occurred, he explained that one couldn't say for sure that bin Laden was behind them. He then asked, "Who profits from the crime?" noting that no Arab or Muslim cause was the better for it. This is an argument used by Islamist conspiratorialists who accuse Israel of perpetrating 9/11. In an interview with the French newsmagazine Le Point, Ramadan used the neutral term "interventions" when speaking of the major terrorist attacks in New York, Bali, and Madrid. And when asked recently by an Italian magazine whether car bombings against U.S. forces in Iraq were justified, he was quoted as saying: "Iraq was colonized by the Americans. Resistance against the army is just."
Ramadan's views about Israel are unsurprising: He strongly favors the elimination of the Jewish state. As one French DST (equivalent to the FBI) agent told the magazine Le Nouvel Observateur, Ramadan's long-term goal is to bring about the legal extinction of the state of Israel through a major Muslim lobbying campaign, first in Europe, then in the United States.
For her 2004 book Brother Tariq, Caroline Fourest, a French expert on Islamic fundamentalism, studied Ramadan's 15 books, 1,500 pages of interviews, and--most important--his 100 or so tapes, which sell tens of thousands of copies each year. Her conclusion: "Ramadan is a war leader." When an interviewer from the weekly L'Express asked Fourest how she could be so sure that Ramadan was indeed the "political heir of his grandfather," Hassan al-Banna, here's how she replied:
"Because I've studied his statements and his writing. I was struck by the extent to which the discourse of Tariq Ramadan is often just a repetition of the discourse that Banna had at the beginning of the 20th century in Egypt. He never criticizes his grandfather. On the contrary, he presents him as a model to be followed, a person beyond reproach, nonviolent and unjustly criticized because of the 'Zionist lobby'! This sends chills down one's spine when one knows the extent to which Banna was a fanatic, that he gave birth to a movement out of which the worst Jihadis (like Ayman al-Zawahiri, the number 2 man of al Qaeda) have emerged, and that he wanted to establish a theocracy in every country having a single Muslim. Tariq Ramadan claims that he is not a Muslim Brother. Like all the Muslim Brothers . . . since it's a fraternity which is three-quarters secret. . . . A Muslim Brother is above all someone who adopts the methods and the thought of Banna. Ramadan is the man who has done the most to disseminate this method and this thought.
In response to her book, Ramadan calls Fourest an agent of Israel but doesn't refute her findings. Predictably, as soon as her book was published, an Islamist website threatened Fourest and posted her address and the pass code to get into her building....